Microsoft unveiled its new Office 365 service today. A replacement for its existing BPOS platform, the system "combines the email, calendar, tasks, and contacts functionality of Exchange with the document sharing and team collaboration of SharePoint, and the instant messaging, videoconferencing, and meeting capabilities of the Lync server," according to I&T's sister publication InformationWeek which offers its top 10 points of comparison between Office 365 and Google Apps.
InformationWeek also has some tips on making the transition from BPOS, and four reasons Google Apps still should reign supreme in the enterprise cloud services market. Clearly, this is being set up as a major battle to watch over the next few months.
Cloud-based e-mail services — or the exploration of them, at least — are popular among insurance companies already. In our digital issue on cloud and data center, it pops up a few times. Armed Forces Insurance's Drew Mazeitis is an existing BPOS user. Though security is often cited as a barrier to cloud adoption, he notes:
We get much more storage with our mailboxes. We also get the benefit of having Microsoft’s resources behind the data center. Microsoft can build levels of redundancy and security into their data centers that we could not afford to build ourselves.
In addition, Judy Haddad of Patriot National Insurance Group told me that in a roundtable discussion she had with other CIOs at the ACORD/LOMA show, she found that many of her peers were running "utility apps" such as e-mail in the cloud.
"Why wouldn't I use utility-type apps to dip my toe into cloud?" she asks. "We all know that e-mail traverses the Internet whether you like it or not."
Because of the momentum already in the industry, it stands to reason that insurers will watch this Google-Microsoft battle closely to see which emerges as the best solution — or, if a more entrants emerge. Will we see another four-way battle between Google, Microsoft, RIM and Apple like we're seeing in enterprise mobile?