By Marc Lighter, Paxis Technologies and ASCII Group member
We all know change is inevitable in the world of IT and rapid innovation excites many of us in the industry, keeping us engaged and productive. I’ve been involved with major industry shifts myself (mainframe to PC, break/fix to managed services) but nothing seemed to happen as quickly as the shift from on-premise email to cloud hosted email. From 2011 to 2016, the shift was so dramatic finding an on premise Exchange Server or I-mail server at a prospect’s facility seemed antiquated (and it didn’t help we would often find they were still backing up onto tape).
The value proposition for cloud hosted email versus on-prem email was easy: No more buying expensive hardware and licenses, decreasing a large capital expense to a dramatically smaller operational expense, and the resiliency of hosting your email in a real data center (rather than a closet down at the end of the hall) are huge benefits. Most users had already had a webmail account so the technical conversation was an easy one to have with the customer.
The decision to support the movement was a difficult one for our IT services company as I’m sure it was for others. After all, about 12 percent of our revenue came from selling email hardware and licenses to our SMB and SME customers. However, we decided we had never made a bad decision when it was ultimately a benefit to our customers. Surprisingly, what we found was the time we saved managing email complaints and dealing with nuisance problems freed our technicians up to concentrate their efforts in other areas. We could do more with the same number of technicians and our customers were happier which translated into longer and more stable relationships with them.
Our company was one of the first IT service providers in our area to embrace the change from on-prem to cloud hosted email. It gave us a surprising advantage in the local market as prospects were itching to cut expenses and were already familiar with the concept of “the cloud” due to a tremendous amount of marketing around the subject.
By providing cloud hosted business email, we were the company that embraced the future and offered better service at a lower price. For two years, our referral pipeline was full with email migration projects. Some of our staff became dedicated to the task of migrating mail from on-prem to cloud.
We were migrating companies all over the country and not just in our local area. This was the tsunami of change that sprouted other organizations I met with whose sole purpose was migrating mail. Organizations that created tools to help in the process of migrating mail took off and made it easy for any IT service provider to move a customer to the cloud easily and painlessly. Eventually, however, other providers followed suit and the time came when more of the new sales prospects we talked to had already moved to a cloud hosted solution.
Exact seat counts are difficult to find since cloud hosting providers do not widely publish their subscriber numbers (and those numbers change frequently, anyway). However, the numbers suggest there are many more cloud mail users than on-prem users and that trend is likely to continue as vendors make their cloud offerings more attractive to the customer than the cost of buying hardware and licenses (and the labor costs of setting all of that up).
As we see the tide of migrations slow, it’s easy to forget there are millions of late adopters still using on-prem solutions for email. In online forums, I’ve read about customers asking to move back to on-prem, thinking it’s more secure or less costly (as service providers, we must do the research to validate or invalidate those concerns). But, while the mass migration to the cloud might be waning, there is a future full of customers who will want to move from one cloud hosting provider to another, and the astute IT service provider will be there, ready to help.
About The Author
Marc Lighter, MBA, MCT, MCSE, is vice president of Paxis Technologies and has been a member of The ASCII Group since 2015. Marc has more the 25 years’ experience helping businesses get value from strategic IT investments and generate more revenue by increasing their employee's productivity and finding new operational efficiencies.
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.