Hosted e-mail will likely spread to more consumers and businesses in 2009. This may hold some surprises for government clients.
Hosted e-mail is huge worldwide and will stay that way for the foreseeable future, according to a report released by The Radicati Group, a company that focuses on market trends in messaging and collaboration.
In an August 2008 document, the company forecasted a 40 percent growth in hosted e-mail seats around the globe between 2008 and 2012. The number of hosted e-mail seats was 1.6 billion in 2008 and was expected to grow by 9 percent annually for four more years.
The report classified hosting providers as those who hosted business e-mail for companies with up to 1,000 mailboxes, managed business e-mail for large enterprise, and Web-based e-mail like Yahoo or Hotmail that's mostly used by consumers.
What does this mean for government? More opportunities to cut costs and survive in a flagging economy.
"We were going to spend $4 million to deploy an enterprise intranet, and I decided not to go with that, and I moved forward with Google Apps as our intranet solution," said Vivek Kundra, chief technology officer of Washington, D.C. "So we were able to solve that problem for half a million dollars what would have cost us $4 million, so that's $3.5 million savings right off the top there."
In the district's case, Google hosts not only e-mail, but also a calendar, video and document-sharing functions for municipal employees. The company's servers and staff handle the back end so government employees can use front-end applications without the fuss.
But when vendors handle e-mail management, the benefits can be bittersweet for clients. Without the need to manage the application themselves, IT staff will have more time to focus on other business activities, but it's possible some people may lose jobs to outsourcing. Kundra downsized IT positions when he moved the district to Google Apps.
Governments should also consider extending security protocols to contractors who handle their internal e-mails. When personnel outside the office handle IT assets, maintaining the privacy of internal communications might be a chore.
In its 2007 document, Insider Security Threats: State CIOs Take Action Now!, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers recommends that states extend security provisions and background checks to contractors, and ensure that contracts contain the requisite security provisions.
The full story appears in the February/March issue of Public CIO.