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Current Trends in Messaging

Written By: P. Hayes
Published On: March 29 2000

Trends Overview

By the end of 2001 it is estimated, the number of active e-mail users will be over 500 million. E-mail has evolved from a useful, but not necessary utility, into a "mission critical" application. An e-mail outage in a large organization is a small step better than complete loss of electricity. Millions of people rely on their e-mail to perform their specific job functions on a daily basis.

As electronic communication has grown, geographic boundaries have shrunk, enabling an onslaught of mobile executives. These users require instant access, at any time, from anywhere while being platform and operating system independent. The need to improve stability, performance, and reliability is ever-present; the need to improve workflow is immediate.

The current trends within the electronic messaging arena involve Unified Messaging to improve communication and access to data, wireless messaging for instant access, outsourcing for reduced administrative overhead, and security to protect an organization from spam, viruses and corruption.

Trend 1: Unified Messaging

Unified Messaging is perhaps the hottest field within electronic communications. Unified Messaging is the concept behind the Universal Inbox. The idea is simply access to all forms of electronic communication through one central and portable interface. Users can have faxes, voice mails, electronic forms, and database access through their existing inbox, in addition to document management and workflow. Whether you are running a collaborative e-mail server such as Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes, or a standard POP3 mail service you will find a 3rd party solution for fax, voice mail, e-forms and workflow. Administrators can pick and choose which components they need for their specific organizations.

Most corporations have at least two components of a UM solution already in place, e-mail and fax integration. The facsimile UM market has been cannibalized by RightFax, recently acquired by AVT Corporation, and Optus FacSys which has increased sales in vertical markets such as fax hardware by BrookTrout.

Voice Messaging has been slower to impact the messaging market, due to the cost of hardware, software and the deficiencies in text to voice speech translation. However, as hardware prices have eased, the text to voice engine technology has improved, making voice integration a viable option. The leaders in voice integration are Lucent, AVT Corporation, and Active Voice with smaller vendors such as Voixx making a market impact.

Wireless Messaging is about to boom. Market leaders such as Lotus, IBM, and AT&T have already announced wireless support. Nokia, Motorola, Ericsonn, and Qualcomm are supporting wireless vertical markets with security, management, and synchronization being tackled by leader Puma Technologies.

Trend 1 Impact:

Information Technology decision makers and administrators must determine, which, if any, components of Unified Messaging are needed by their users today and take the necessary steps to implementation. The Unified Inbox is no longer a futuristic concept, its available to your IT organization today.

We recommend an advanced jump onto the wireless technologies, especially for organizations with roaming sales forces. While wireless access implementations are not inexpensive from a CFO's point of view, there are some cheaper ways to test the water temperature. One option is to implement a two-way paging system, such as a RIM pager (Research In Motion), which allows a user constant access to e-mail. Another option may be to roll out Wireless Access Phones (WAP) to a smaller target test group and verify that your organization benefits from the enhanced remote communication capabilities.

Trend 2: The Wireless Big Bang

Walking hand in hand with Unified Messaging is the extension of the Universal Inbox to wireless access phones (WAP) and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). The Wireless Messaging market is expected to consist of greater than 600 million users by the 4th quarter of 2003 (Probability 75%).

Lotus is leading the pack of collaborative messaging vendors through Partnerships with wireless vendors such as Nokia and AT&T. Microsoft is expected to release a list of wireless vendor alliances within the next quarter (Probability 80%). Vendors such as Puma Technologies and NetMind are teaming up to add synchronization and personalization features to wireless messaging offerings. Expect to see WAP offerings from all cellular carriers within 90 days (Probability 85%) and the proliferation of wireless cradles for PDAs within the next 180 days (Probability 70%).

Trend 2 Impact:

Information Technology decision makers and administrators may not have need for wireless messaging now, but it will quickly become a mainstream technology. Verify that your software vendors have/are accounting for the wireless trends in messaging, if not apply pressure when possible. If you already have a PDA/WAP user base of 500 or more, you have reached "critical-mass" as defined by Puma Technologies and should immediately investigate data access, synchronization, and management.

Trend 3: Outsourcing your email to an ASP

Outsourcing messaging has become attractive to today's fast paced organizations that are looking for an easier way to maintain a messaging system. Internally hosted email systems require constant maintenance and are administrative headaches. In addition, finding and keeping an employee with messaging expertise is growing more and more difficult. Information Technology (IT) Departments' turn over rates have lent themselves to the IT department "revolving door" concept.

Many CIO's are interested in washing their hands of maintaining a production e-mail system and taking advantage of outsourcing opportunities. Generally, a collaborative server-based outsourced mailbox will cost approximately $29 (USD) per month. Technology Evaluation has determined that the cost break point ranges between three and four hundred users. For larger organizations consisting of thousands of users, outsourcing is not financially viable, although the zero-administration concept has a very strong appeal.

Trend 3 Impact:

Smaller companies consisting of 5 - 400 users should look towards outsourcing their messaging as a method to eliminate internal technical headaches, human resource issues, and to decrease operating costs.

Companies larger than 500 users should look to keep their primary messaging systems internally hosted as a 3-year life cycle indicates a significantly higher outsourcing cost when weighed against the costs of an internally hosted system.

Trend 4: Messaging Security and Management

As the number of electronic mail users grows astronomically, so do the levels of spam and viruses. The problem has existed for several years, with the majority of organizations taking a reactive as opposed to a proactive approach to virus and spam protection. The "Melissa" virus, which took its toll on corporate America, brought the messaging security arena into the limelight. In 1998 alone e-mail viruses caused more than $7 Billion (USD) in data damage.

While spam may not damage data, it does hamper user performance. For instance, if it takes the average user 5 seconds to delete each piece of spam and each user receives 5-10 spam messages a day, the soft dollar cost can be substantial. Companies such as Network Associates, Symantec, and Trend Micro are the three leading vendors in AntiVirus software and content scanning and filtering. Expect to see the messaging security vertical markets to grow in proportion to the wireless explosion.

Trend 4 Impact:

The time has come to be proactive in the protection of company data. The messaging system is one of the most vulnerable and accessible services on the network. Take advantage of AntiVirus software servers and save yourself from potentially devastating infection. In addition, implement content filtering to alleviate the spam loads across users mailboxes; your users will thank you for it.

Conclusion

The corporate and private messaging markets are growing quickly, and with the advent of Wireless Messaging the connected user base will surpass 600 million users within 3 years (Probability 75%). Corporations must take the time now to ensure availability, scalability, and reliability in order to take advantage of emerging technologies.

Corporations must take the time to implement safeguards against unsolicited email, otherwise known as spam, and ensure superior virus protection. One of the larger problems corporations face today is the lack of available human talent in the marketplace. The retention of qualified people is also a significant challenge.

Today's internal IT messaging departments seem to have a revolving door, where existing employees are being offered $25,000 (USD) sign-on bonuses, or new BMW's by a competitor. These human resource concerns have made the Application Service Provider (ASP) market more appealing to many IT managers. We expect to see the ASP market capture 20% of the corporate messaging market within three years (Probability 80%.)

 

 
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