Kerio Technologies took a small step into the cloud computing realm with the launch of SaaS capabilities in Connect 7, but now the vendor is taking a much larger step into cloud with the release of Connect 8.

Previously, Kerio enabled its partners and customers to host Kerio Connect on their own hardware using the SaaS model, but Kerio is now offering its messaging and calendaring server on a new cloud service infrastructure. However, it's not pulling the plug on its on-premise version of Connect; it's simply adding more cloud capabilities in an effort to compete more directly with the big guys in the space, namely Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps.

"Kerio Connect Cloud is a service that our partners buy from us. They're essentially renting IT infrastructure, but they keep the ownership of the administration," Dusan Vitek, vice president of marketing at Kerio, told Talkin' Cloud.

For Kerio's channel partners that don't have the resources or the interest in building and maintaining their own Connect servers, Connect 8 provides them with another option. It gives partners resell opportunities related to Connect on the Kerio Connect Cloud, a private cloud service.

Vitek noted that as VARs become more accustomed and comfortable with focusing their businesses on professional services as opposed to reselling hardware, it will result in growing adoption for cloud services among customers. That's part of what Kerio is betting on with its push into providing partners and end customers with cloud services.

"This offering has seen a great level of interest, primarily here in North America where our channel partners seem to be most comfortable with cloud hosting services," Vitek said.

Kerio has set a suggested price for Kerio Connect Cloud at $10 per user per month, but partners are free to set their own pricing based on bundled services and local competition.

Additionally, Connect 8 is outfitted with a new client interface. The vendor has completely redesigned its webmail user interface, and according to Vitek, it's a lot closer to what end users have come to expect from web-based email interfaces (in other words, closer to Google Gmail in design).