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Microsoft recently announced plans to offer Office 365 as part of GoDaddy's Web hosting service. The move is one small part in the company's strategy of getting Exchange customers more fully into the cloud, according to one expert.

Battle of Email

Office 365 allows Microsoft customers to access their Office documents from virtually anywhere, but it also includes tools like email. Microsoft Exchange, of course, is the full email suite that thrives as an on-premise tool, though there is also an online version. Email is now moving to the cloud, and everyone can see it, Liam Eagle, a 451 Research analyst, explained in an interview.

"We're at that point in the adoption curve where everyone sees the value of it," he said.

This is clearly an issue at Microsoft because so many Exchange customers are using the on-premise version, Eagle said. That means any of those customers looking to move their email away from a private server could start looking at competing services like Google. To help prevent that, Microsoft is pushing its webmail hosting prowess with deals like the one announced with GoDaddy.

Eagle put it like this. No company hosts its own websites on an in-house server. Eventually, the same will hold true for email, and that's what this move is all about. Companies that host websites with GoDaddy can use the Office 365 technology as part of the email tied to their websites. With Exchange, companies will be working with a systems integrator or value added reseller to power their email — groups that had initially been opposed to Exchange moving to the cloud, Eagle said.

Now, those companies have warmed to the idea, and moving ever larger numbers of Exchange on-premise customers to the cloud is a real Microsoft priority. "Microsoft has tuned Exchange to fit the cloud model company," Eagle said.

The SharePoint Question

Office 365 could also be a way to get other on premise Microsoft customers into the cloud, especially those of the SharePoint persuasion. Not all of SharePoint's capabilities are offered in Office 365, of course, but for SMBs in particular, the collaboration features could be noteworthy.