My manager has instructed me to do some preliminary research around moving our Exchange email to the cloud. I've read several articles online but have seen a lot of conflicting reports regarding security, reliability and other important factors. Can you help clear the air for me?
Depending on whom you ask, when it comes to hosted Exchange email, there are a lot of misconceptions. I'm sure you've read several of the following statements during your research, allow me to elaborate on them:
A move to hosted email means that you lose sight of your data. This statement is simply not true. You can absolutely see your data on a day-to-day basis, and if you adopt a hybrid model you have the option to move data back and forth between local Exchange servers and the cloud. When you move to a hosted Exchange email model, you never lose actual ownership of your information; it’s just located somewhere that you're not used to.
Hosted email is less secure. While this statement is not true, it brings up an interesting point. Most hosted email providers actually have greater control over the security of their systems than what a business can provide locally. That said, the concern here should actually be finding out just how secure communication between your hosting company and client endpoints is. For example, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is used in many cases, is no less secure than providing Outlook Web App access externally.
Hosted email is not reliable. No computer system is 100% reliable, and when you move to the cloud, your own focus will change from high availability for your own mail servers to redundant network links.
Providers -- such as Microsoft, with Office 365 -- have made extensive investments in uptime; their viability as successful businesses depends on being able to deliver on their promises to provide optimal services. These investments are likely to be more extensive than what most organizations can afford on their own. This means that reliability problems are infrequent and usually solved quickly.
Hosted email means all your administrative tasks and problems disappear. This is not entirely true either. Businesses that want to reduce administrative overhead and costs should remember that even a hosted Exchange email deployment requires a certain degree of administration for account management and maintenance of the organization’s cloud environment. There are fewer demands than in an on-premises Exchange setup, but administration is definitely a continued requirement and should not be dismissed.
Determining whether or not to change how you deliver email to users is always going to be a difficult decision. Remember that your final choice should be built on a solid business case. Look at your options and run the numbers. Find out what makes the most sense for your business now as well as five years down the road.
About the author:
Andy Grogan is a multiple recipient of the Microsoft Exchange MVP award (2009-2013). He is based in the U.K. and has worked in the IT industry for the last 16 years, primarily with Microsoft, HP and IBM technologies. Grogan's main passion is Exchange Server, but he also specializes in Active Directory, SQL Server, storage solutions, technology strategy and technical leadership in large-scale enterprises. Grogan currently works for a large county council in Surrey as its technical delivery manager and supports 15,000 customers on more than 240 sites. Visit Andy's website at www.telnetport25.com/.
This was first published in June 2013