I am going to talk some more about email this month. As most of you have gathered, I am a big supporter of the Cloud and of Microsoft Office 365. Exchange Online is the part of Office 365 that handles all of the email related tasks, but what you may or may not know is that Microsoft also has a product called Exchange Server that runs on your local servers managing all of your email needs. Exchange Server has been around for a very long time and until recently was packaged with Windows Small Business Server or SBS as a way for small businesses to get enterprise email for a not-so-enterprise price. Exchange Server no longer comes bundled with the Microsoft server product targeted at small businesses called Server Essentials. This leaves many small and medium-sized businesses with the burning question of “What do we do next?”
SBS users who choose to stick with Server Essentials when they upgrade or who have chosen to move up to the full Windows server product have 2 options. Their first option is of course to switch to the cloud. Second is to purchase another server and run Exchange on-site. Each has their pros and cons.
Some pros to on-site Exchange are that it allows companies to maintain control over every aspect of the Exchange Server, from the software installation to the hardware it runs on. The company can install additional software on the server to integrate with 3rd party products easier. Updates and maintenance happen on the company’s schedule, not on Microsoft’s. Backups and disaster recovery and compliance are all still maintained by the company. Large files and large mailboxes can be very slow.
Many of the pros to on-site Exchange can also be considered cons. Any software or hardware problems that arise are the responsibility of the company. In order to ensure a secure stable Exchange environment, the company is responsible for testing and implementing updates, making sure backups are working, and assuring that recovery of those backups can be tested. The company must also staff or contract with people with the knowledge and skills to perform all of this management and maintenance not to mention setup, installation, and integration.
Hosted Exchange inside a service like Office 365 takes the entire burden of managing and maintaining the hardware and software off of the company and getting setup and started is quick and easy. These are 2 of the main pros of hosted Exchange with Office 365. Providing always-available-anywhere access requires no extra configuration.
The company does have to give up a lot of control for this level of convenience, which can certainly be marked in the con category. Many 3rd party integrations may not work with or support a hosted solution. Upgrades and updates to the system may come at a slower pace, and fixes for your company’s particular issue may not be a priority.
Making the decision between hosted and on-site Exchange is a business decision as much as it is an IT decision. Hopefully this article has given you a place to start when weighing the pros and cons of this decision for your company. As always, Jacobs & Company B.I.T.S. is willing and available to help you make the most informed decision possible for your business.