It’s not often that you can come up with a simple answer in IT, but I am going to stick my neck out and say that for small and medium sized businesses outsourcing your Email server is a “no brainer”.
Having made this statement, I guess I need to back this up with some reasons, but first let’s look at some of the statements we have come across why customers are concerned about moving their email server into the cloud.
Loss of control
Probably the most common reason we hear is a concern about loss of control, but what does this actually mean? The answers are along the lines of security concerns, knowing who has access to the system, ability to get the data back in the event of the host going bust, control over the systems functionality and somewhat bizarrely being able to see and touch the equipment is also a concern.
If we exclude the last item, then all these concerns are valid, so the first thing I would ask is a range of similar questions that relate to the company’s existing in house email server which is generally greeted with mixed answers but the overriding factor is that any company that has committed to providing a hosted email service should have addressed these questions, documented them and be governed by some level of accreditation to assure the end user of this.
Most small and medium sized businesses that we meet cannot claim to have invested the same amount as a hosted cloud company and thus many of the concerns that are fired at us turn out to be failings in existing systems which are addressed by moving to the cloud.
What happens if our internet fails?
Once again we ask the question about the existing in-house email server and the response is often that they can at least continue to send and receive emails internally but with a hosted system this wouldn’t be the case, would it?
Partly true in that if there is no internet connection then your desktop would be able to send an internal message but then we ask if users have access to a smartphone that gets emails and often the answer is yes. A smartphone will generally use your office WiFi but if that is not working then it will simply use its built in 3G/4G connection and carry on sending and receiving emails.
Having a smart phone means you can carry on sending and receiving emails without any interruption if your email is cloud hosted, but if it’s on your in-house server and the internet at the office is down, then the smartphone cannot contact the server and thus no new emails can be sent or received from any device.
Don’t forget that most phone data plans will now allow you to use your phone as a WiFi hotspot so by getting a wireless network card for your local office machine you can connect to the internet via your phone and carry on sending and receiving emails from your desktop.
Lastly if staff have been authorised to work from home or another location, then they can simply leave the office and work remotely.
Clearly the above points are over simplified answers to a much larger question and every business will have their own set of questions but many years of migrating customers to hosted exchange has shown that the number of occasions when an in-house server proves to be the better choice is extremely low and only in very unique situations.
So why is a hosted email server so good?
- You don’t have to buy a new server every 5 years or so and upgrades are dealt with by the host both on the hardware and software without the end user being affected
- Fault tolerance, disaster recovery and backup systems are built in as part of the solution and then monitored and managed by experts
- Antivirus and spam filtering is built in and the on-going monitoring, management and maintenance of the system is the host’s responsibility
- Potential to increase the life span of your in-house server. For companies that have an SBS server moving the exchange into the cloud will increase its life span as you will have dramatically reduced the amount of work that it has to do
- Your inbound email is not dependent on a fixed IP address, so the loss of your internet connection will not stop emails arriving on the host server. You may also save money as many ISPs will charge for a fixed IP addresses which may no longer be required.
- Any device can be used to send and receive email from anywhere in the world.
- Storage limits are generally far more generous than with a local email server (MS hosted Exchange includes 50GB per user account)
- It’s easy to add archiving and legal hold facilities for companies that rely on their email for compliance and legal negotiation reasons.
- Reduced stress for business owners and IT managers.
- Flexibility as it is easy to add new users without any concerns about exceeding the server’s hardware or software limits.
- End users continue to use their existing email client (assuming that it is a current version) – once the migration is done they see no difference to how they would normally work, so no re training is required.
- On-going monthly fees are a tax deductible operating expenditure.
In summary this is one area where I am willing to stick my neck out and make the bold statement that all companies should be looking very closely at moving their email into the cloud either now or as soon as their exiting on premises email server is due for renewal.