Editor’s note: Email has become the backbone of internal and external collaboration, says Justin Pirie, Mimecast’s email and cloud strategist. In this interview he discusses user expectations and trends in cloud-based email services.
SandHill.com: Your website displays statistics that 57 percent of users rely on email as a default file server but only 25 percent are happy with the functionality of their email. What is driving companies to turn to cloud-based email solutions?
Justin Pirie: Reducing cost, risk and complexity are the main factors driving adoption of cloud-based email solutions. The more people use the email services and need it, the more embedded it becomes into a business process. Then, the bigger the problem it becomes if something goes wrong.
It’s like when your car goes into the shop and you don’t get a rental car. Suddenly you don’t have a car and you realize just how much you actually rely on it. This is a key factor for what’s driving people to turn to cloud-based solutions where they can outsource all the costs, risks and complexity to an expert.
SandHill.com: Are all cloud-based email solutions similar? How do they differ in the value they provide to customers?
Justin Pirie: Not all clouds are the same. Some solutions may be cheap and easy but might not be highly available and could become costly in the long term. Others may not be as easy to use, or they experience frequent downtime.
The biggest value that Mimecast’s solutions provide to customers is our capability to integrate with existing technologies, on-premises, hosted or cloud. We help put the power in the users’ hands, right where they want and expect it to be.
For example, our Outlook plug-in puts the archive and spam management all where the user wants it to go, not on a hard-to-find Web service. The best businesses are making decisions based around what matters to their users.
People shouldn’t be fooled by vendors dressing up as a cloud service — so called “cloudwashing.” Customers have to be careful that they actually understand what they are buying; it needs to be true multi-tenant, horizontally scalable architecture built for cloud, not one masquerading as cloud.
Things that actually matter include enhanced availability, a financially backed service-level agreement, customer service people can call with real people they can speak to and 24-hour support.
A cloud should not be a “Roach Motel” either. Customers need to be able to get their data back anytime they want and not have it stuck with the vendor. That’s what businesses need — it’s their data.
SandHill.com: How is the cloud enabling organizations to improve their internal and external collaboration through social channels and email?
Justin Pirie: Email has become the backbone of internal and external collaboration. We all have come to rely on it and use it a lot. We read through hundreds of emails a day and take for granted that we can send whatever we want and that it will arrive in the correct destination securely. Smart companies are turning to the cloud to help.
For example, I had a friend who got a job at a large company. He was given a small inbox that he filled in three days and then he was stuck. He couldn’t do any work. He couldn’t send emails and didn’t want to delete important information. On-premises solutions are stopping people from working properly and collaborating. He ended up archiving his email to a PST every day and deleting everything daily from his corporate mailbox. No company wants to lose employee email data like that.
I send and receive hundreds of emails a day. With the cloud, I’m no longer limited by my mailbox size. Using the cloud, people can free themselves from mailbox restrictions, and that enables them to be more productive and collaborative, all for the systems already on-premises.
SandHill.com: In what ways do you predict email and social media communications will change over the next two years?
Justin Pirie: This is the “email is not dead” meme. My take is that email is still growing. Email is the essential business communication method, so it’s far from dying. There are over a billion business mailboxes out there. Email is the fabric of our enterprise society.
That’s not to say email doesn’t have problems. That’s why companies like Mimecast are working on making email smarter, more efficient and more secure.
It can be hard work to manage your inbox — a job in itself sometimes. But email is now taking a leaf out of social’s books. For example, Outlook integrates one’s social contacts in the address book. We can do interesting things between email and social.
Here’s how I look at it. Twitter is a real-time newsfeed. Facebook hosts pictures of friends and family. LinkedIn manages one’s business contacts. Email is the primary communication tool.
Another point: email has gone increasingly mobile with the advent of smartphones. People are checking and receiving emails while on their phones walking to work or waiting in line at the grocery store. Mobile email has increased in use as it’s become more accessible; this will change the landscape over the next few years as vendors think about making email smarter both on computers and smartphones.
SandHIll.com: What do you think will be the most significant trends in cloud capabilities (excluding email and social media communications) that emerge over the next two years?
Justin Pirie: Life is becoming increasingly digital. People are becoming much more cloud native. There is a quick acceleration of people using the cloud and the opportunities to use the cloud are growing.
For example, we’re working on becoming an “information bank” where we store more than just email – we can now archive Dropbox, Box, SharePoint and Files. With a tool like that people can search all their data in one place, liberating them from worrying about where it’s located and how to find it and liberating them from the worry about storing it and backing it up. As people become more cloud native they can digitize offline processes.
Another trend I see is the app economy will continue to accelerate. We’re living in an app-centric world, especially as mobile increases. More apps will be developed to increase productivity.
Mimecast was a collaborator in the 2013 Future of Cloud survey hosted by North Bridge Venture Partners, 451 Research and GigaOM. Click here to view the results of the survey.
Justin Pirie is Mimecast’s cloud and email strategist with over 10 years of IT experience. He is a SaaS and cloud specialist with a focus on implementing mobile and cloud strategies in enterprises. Before joining Mimecast, he was a consultant to companies large and small, helping them create successful SaaS products and strategies. Prior to this, he was an officer at Endeavors Technology, the inventors of Application Virtualization. Connect with him on Twitter: @justinpirie.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.