The Federal government wants to speed up adoption of cloud email and collaboration systems. But first it needs an accurate measure of how many agencies have not yet migrated to cloud email. There is definitive data on the benefits of cloud-based email solutions among CFO Act agencies, but no clear data regarding the adoption of cloud-based solutions at small and independent agencies, according to the Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization.

Migration of email and collaboration systems to the cloud has been considered “low-hanging fruit” by many Federal IT managers in their journey toward cloud-based services. The Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency, and Veterans Affairs Administration were among the first large agencies to move tens of thousands of employees from in-house email systems to cloud-based services hosted by either Google or Microsoft.

Cost savings and improved security are some of the benefits of cloud-based email and collaboration solutions. Yet, the migration to these solutions can be costly and burdensome, especially for smaller agencies. That is why agencies now looking toward migration to cloud-based solutions need “a set of secure, easy-to-maintain, and cost-effective solutions,” according to the White House Report.

Understanding the full size of the Federal cloud-based email marketplace will enable the government to maximize its leverage in negotiations with cloud collaboration vendors. Moreover, it will also give the government a better sense of systems that are vulnerable to existing and emerging cyberattacks. Aging, duplicative legacy systems are not only cumbersome and costly to maintain, but expose government employees to cybersecurity risks. Both government and industry have seen an increase in email-based spear phishing attacks that deploy malicious attachments and links for compromising individuals’ personal information and organizations’ intellectual property.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is charged with conducting a data call to agencies regarding their current email contracts, prices, and number of mailboxes. OMB will also “convene a task force of agencies to finalize a standard set of requirements for cloud email, including both low and moderate security postures for email and cloud collaboration. These requirements, which will build upon previously completed work, will be circulated to all agencies for comment and serve as the basis for acquisition,” according to the report.

The report points out that industry is well positioned to provide effective security controls for cloud email and collaboration systems, especially when paired with National Cybersecurity Protection System Program capabilities. Industry also can help agencies leverage improved mobile, tablet, and productivity operating environments.

There are currently only two hosted solutions deployed in the Federal Government, though additional competitors could emerge. “Regardless, a requirement to make better use of cloud-based email and collaboration services increases the Government’s leverage in obtaining farther reaching innovative solutions and better pricing,” the President’s IT Modernization report states.

“Practically every Federal agency already uses some kind of cloud-based email. The innovation here is in the desire to “leverage the Government’s buying power,” Deltek analyst Alexander Rossino, wrote in a recent blog. “Implied in this statement and elsewhere in the report is the desire that all agencies adopt the same cloud-based email system. Considering that Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Office365 solutions currently dominate the cloud email marketplace, it seems one or the other will become the standard,” Rossino noted.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.