Despite the best efforts of social networking vendors to convince us to the contrary, email is alive and kicking in the enterprise. In fact, research from Dell shows 81 percent of enterprise workers consider it their most important collaboration tool.

The problem is it is not evolving.

Resisting Change

Despite the development of cloud computing and improved security around the cloud, many enterprises still prefer to leave their email as an on-premises application. These findings appear in Dell sponsored research called The State of Corporate Email, which is based on a survey of 202 IT professionals that are responsible for corporate email systems in enterprises with more than 1000 employees.

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The importance of email

To discover the story behind the figures, CMSWire talked to Michael Tweddle, senior director of product management at Dell Software. He pointed out that, despite advancements in cloud computing, many enterprises — including those enterprises that are using Exchange — are still reluctant to consider cloud-based email services.

"When the survey came back we were really surprised to find that, even though a large number of the respondents were using Exchange, very few have made the move to Office 365," Tweedly said. "In fact, 82 percent of them say they are still considering their options, which also suggests that they may also be considering a move away from Microsoft." 

When companies think of data governance they think of things like file sharing, SharePoint or information in the CRM systems. But one of the things that is not often mentioned is the amount of data that is in flight or even at rest in Exchange.

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Email as an enterprise collaboration tool
 

Cloud Computing Fears

The survey also showed that the principal obstacles to moving to the cloud remain the same: availability, security and data loss.

Asked why they didn't move to the cloud, or have decided to stay with an on-premises system, close to 80 percent of respondents said they didn't want to lose control of their email, which is what moving to the cloud could result in. The other major concern around email in the cloud is security:

"While providers like Microsoft and Google do have a secure data center and are data compliant with the regimes that are currently in place, they also have administrators that will have have access to email for better management. They will also often work with third party solutions, so there is considerable concern about offering outsiders access to these emails."

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Why enterprise email is kept on-premises
 

Enterprises are also concerned about data loss. Migration is a complicated process and without proper planning, large amounts of information can end up lost or permanently misplaced in vast data storage systems.

However, there is a flip side to this. It seems that if these problems could be managed, a large number of enterprises would be prepared to consider migrating to the cloud.

The research found that 55 percent of enterprises want constant upgrades to their email, as well as the functionality and features. If the desire is to stay on the cutting edge of email technologies, then surely the cloud is the best choice. 

Email in the Cloud

Many enterprises will have to face a tradeoff. If they want to keep abreast of technological development, moving to the cloud is the way to go. But what about all those concerns and issues around cloud computing?

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Email in the cloud
 

While Microsoft and other providers are doing their best to ensure that security issues are in check, companies that are looking for complete control are likely best served by on-premises technologies. According to the research, there are four things that enterprises need to look at:

1. Preparation for Migration

This is by far the most important step that enterprises should take before making the move, and involves a number of important preparatory steps:

  • Defining your target:  Enterprises need to be clear about the boundaries of their new environment and how it correspondents with the environment they are migrating from. Those managing the migration also need to consider whether the migration will require a full coexistence solution to enable users to remain productive throughout the course of the migration, or whether a quick cut-over migration will work.
  • Organization assessment: IT must understand the new environment and how it works. This will include an assessment of the server architecture, as well as how many servers there are, where they are deployed and who is using them. IT departments need to know what is going to be migrated and when it will be migrated.
  • Preparing the organization: Before the migration begins, create a migration project plan that outlines milestones and documents such critical steps in the process as executing a pilot, contingency and recovery planning, archiving old data and communicating the change internally to users.

2. Readiness

Organizations need to consider whether they are really ready for the cloud. Cost, while important, is not the only issue and organizations need to look at the security implications for their data. Organizations also need to assess whether the benefits of moving messaging and collaboration to the cloud are worth the disruption.

3. Management and compliance

It is just as important to have a plan for effectively managing the new email environment as it is to have a plan for the migration itself. Management needs are often overlooked until after the migration is complete, and organizations find that native tools are limited in functionality.

A management plan should include solutions that help monitor performance, ensure availability, recover data, implement automation, provide advanced reporting, enforce email retention policies, simplify administration and maintain compliance and security.

4.Take care of PST(Personal Storage Table)

Personal Storage Table (PST) is an open proprietary file format used to store copies of messages, calendar events and other items within Microsoft software such as Microsoft Exchange Client, Windows Messaging and Microsoft Outlook.

As a result of the fact that they are rarely accessed and unknown to data backups and legal data retention teams, PST files often get left behind during a migration. To make sure this doesn't happen, deploy a solution that will search for all PST files located on user desktops, determine who owns the files, and then migrate those PST files directly into the primary or archive mailbox.

While Dell, as a provider of migration tools for all the major email vendors, has a clear interest in email migration , it does not take away from the findings of the report, nor the suggestions on how to prepare for cloud migration.

Title image by phloxii (Shutterstock).