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Hosted it the answer?

It wasn't that long ago, if you wanted a business grade email solution, you probably installed an Exchange server and bought Outlook for all your users. If you were a small business, you probably had Microsoft's Small Business Server, which included Exchange. Of course, there are other business grade email applications out there, such as Lotus Notes and others, but Exchange is one that we see the most. But as they say, the times they are a changing. Now we see a number of various business-worthy solutions. Why has the landscape changed? There are a number of reasons.

If you were one of those companies using Small Business Server (SBS) and wanted to update to a new operating system, there was no longer an upgrade path for SBS. Microsoft Server 2012 has no version that includes Exchange. From our point of view at Great Lakes IT, this was probably a good move. Exchange is an application that uses significant system resources; within a SBS server environment it had the potential of affecting network performance. So, if you upgraded your server to Server 2012 and still wanted to host your own email, you now had to have a separate Exchange server. For most small businesses, a separate Exchange server can be a costly endeavor.

So, what other alternatives exist? If you need to hold down costs, and you don't mind a convoluted migration, there's Gmail. Business grade email is now a reality with Google, but if you are comfortable with Outlook and want to continue using it, Gmail may not be the best fit. That leaves us with Hosted Exchange, it's a cloud based solution that can be quite secure and highly reliable. For a small business, it's far more economical than installing an Exchange server.

For those of you who want to compare our hosted Exchange to Gmail, here's a short list of some of the advantages inherent to Exchange.

- flexible folder organization

- shared calendars and synchronized group calendars

- email storage quotas are user definable

- full Blackberry support

- guaranteed 99.999% uptime

- access to all email from mobile devices

- full two way sync'ing for mail, contacts, calendar and tasks to all devices

- your data stays in the USA

- includes Outlook for each user

Some people still question the security of the cloud, but from what we have seen, if you choose a good provider, a cloud based email solution can provide better levels of security than you can get on your own. Cloud based email is definitely here to stay.

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