WHAT IS HOSTED EXCHANGE?
Microsoft Exchange Server is the leading business-grade messaging system employed in North America and is currently used by 180 million people worldwide. Exchange offers a number of capabilities, including email, calendaring, task management, address lists, and access to shared document repositories, and other functions. Exchange was originally introduced in June 1996 and has been upgraded several times since to include additional and enhanced features. The current version is Exchange 2013, released in November 2012.
ENTER HOSTED EXCHANGE
Hosted Exchange has been offered for several years by a large and growing number of providers around the world. There are a large number of hosted Exchange services worldwide, although these vendors vary widely in terms of their capabilities, the number of users they support, the ancillary services they provide, their pricing, etc. There are currently several million users of hosted Exchange and Office 365 worldwide.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE FOR HOSTED EXCHANGE?
There is a perception that hosted Exchange is intended only for small businesses, while on-premises Exchange is better suited to mid-sized and large organizations. While this has been the conventional wisdom for some time, and while smaller organizations can realize the most significant per-seat savings from the use of hosted Exchange, larger organizations are realizing the benefits of migrating to a hosted Exchange model.
BENEFITS FOR IT
WHAT BENEFITS CAN YOU EXPECT?
Why should your organization consider migrating to hosted Exchange? There are a number of important reasons to consider doing so that are focused on direct costs, opportunity costs, security and other benefits, as discussed below.
Many decision makers believe that an internally managed Exchange deployment is less expensive to deploy and operate than hosted Exchange. While in some cases that perception is accurate, very often it is not. Osterman Research’s cost models have demonstrated that an on-premises, 100-seat Exchange deployment costs nearly $40 per seat per month over a three-year system lifetime, while a 1,000-seat deployment costs just over $24 per seat per month (These costs include IT labor to manage the Exchange infrastructure.). Given that hosted Exchange offerings are priced substantially less than this, the direct cost savings from using hosted Exchange are substantial. It is also important to note that leading providers of hosted Exchange include the licensing costs as part of their service, further reducing the cost of hosted compared to on-premises Exchange.
ACCESS TO EXCHANGE EXPERTISE
Although Exchange is an easy system for users to employ, it is not a simple system to manage internally. It requires expertise in a number of areas, particularly when deploying a new version of the system, it requires expertise in each of the several server roles that comprise the Exchange platform, and it requires expertise in various other technologies that are integral to the Exchange ecosystem. The cost to develop this expertise can be high and, for smaller organizations, often prohibitive. In contrast, the use of a hosted Exchange provider like ACM Computers can offer access to well-trained technical support staff that are available on a 24×7 basis that can typically resolve problems quickly and with minimum expertise from their customers.
ROBUST BUSINESS CONTINUITY AND DATA BACKUP
One of the more compelling benefits of hosted Exchange is the fact that a third party is managing the entire backend infrastructure, thereby minimizing the impact of major and minor services outages and the ensuing loss of email that can impact any business. For example, a hurricane or tornado can knock on-premises systems out for days or even weeks, while less serious problems like power outages or storms can bring down messaging capabilities for hours or even a few days. While these events can also impact providers of hosted Exchange services, leading providers will back up their customers’ email, allowing uninterrupted receipt of email for customers until they can come back online. This is something that a non-technical staff member or senior executive can do. Further, in the event that a customer’s facilities are made unavailable for any length of time, employees can still access their hosted Exchange accounts from anywhere using a Web browser, a mobile device or a copy of Outlook or Entourage on their home computer.
RELATIVELY PAINLESS MIGRATION TO NEW EXCHANGE VERSIONS
Migrating from one version of Exchange to another is just that – a migration, not an upgrade. Because Exchange does not allow an in-place upgrade to a new version, the cost of migration can be very high and even prohibitive for smaller organizations. Using a hosted Exchange provider, on the other hand, minimizes or even eliminates the cost of migration, since some providers will migrate their customers to a new version at no charge. Not only does this minimize the IT pain and the time required to migrate, not to mention the potential for downtime in the system, but it also dramatically reduces the overall cost of Exchange management over the long term.
MINIMIZING THE IMPACT ON THE INTERNAL NETWORK
Another important benefit of hosted Exchange is that much of the network traffic that would normally take place with an on-premises deployment of Exchange is transferred to the hosting provider. For example, a hosted Exchange provider that also offers anti-virus and anti-spam filtering will eliminate 75% or more of the email that would normally come into the network as spam, only to be quarantined and eventually discarded by end users. This saves significantly on both bandwidth and storage, costs that are growing exponentially and unpredictably in smaller organizations.
ROBUST PHYSICAL SECURITY
Virtually all leading hosted Exchange providers operate very secure physical facilities that include video surveillance capabilities, multiple employee access points using multi-factor authentication, tracking and monitoring tools and other capabilities that protect their customers’ data from being compromised. In most cases, the security provided by hosted Exchange providers exceeds the security that their customers could afford to deploy.
THE ABILITY TO FOCUS ON CORE BUSINESS PROCESSES
The use of hosted Exchange allows an organization to focus more on its core business processes rather than devoting resources to managing its Exchange infrastructure. While many IT decision makers believe that managing messaging capabilities is part of their core competency, that is really not the case in most organizations. Letting a hosted Exchange provider manage key messaging capabilities is most often a better use of IT staff members’ time, as discussed above.