When considering whether to migrate from Microsoft Exchange Server to Office 365 for your business email, the old cloud vs on-premise discussion once again rears its (not so ugly) head. While we won’t get into the ins and outs of cloud computing in general, we’ll discuss a few of the aspects to consider around keeping your email solution in-house or using a public cloud solution.
Firstly, a quick recap on what each of the email systems are:
On-Premise Microsoft Exchange Server
Exchange Server is Microsoft’s email, calendaring, contact, scheduling and collaboration platform. Deployed on the Windows Server operating system, Exchange Server is used in small businesses, right up to large enterprises. Its primary function is email delivery. While it is possible to deliver Microsoft Exchange in a Software-as-a-Service model, we’ll focus on the original on-premise set up still maintained by many businesses. In its simplest terms, this is a physical box that sits in the corner of an office storing all the email facility for that business.
Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity and collaboration toolkit which features the popular Microsoft Office suite, Business Intelligence apps, file storage, email storage and other interesting services. Not every product is included on every Office 365 plan, the business must select the subscription which suits their needs the best. At its most basic, an Office 365 for business subscription features full email facility and the web versions of the popular Office apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint).
1. Disaster recovery
Planning for disaster recovery and continuation is something every business must prepare for. In the event that your building is damaged or inaccessible, or employees are unable to get into work, the email part of your operations can continue as normal with cloud-based email (Office 365). Your employees would simply need to login on any internet connected device to gain full access to their email.
While Office 365 is very highly available and protects against physical loss, it doesn’t provide long retention periods as standard. With Microsoft Exchange, if you experience a fire or theft you have to pick up the pieces yourself and rely on restoring your own off-premise backups, factoring in any operational downtime required.
If you’re focussing on growing your business, Office 365 is head and shoulders above Exchange for ease of scalability. Simply increase or decrease the mailboxes and storage you require from month to month – only paying for what you need at that time. When using an on-premise email server, a growing business can rapidly reach their capacity requirements. This forces the need to purchase more storage, but in the event of contraction, they’ve now paid for permanent storage they no longer need.
Many SMEs won’t have a dedicated in-house IT resource. The person responsible for IT therefore needs to ensure email stays up and running as cost-effectively as possible. Configuring and managing an on-premise Exchange server requires significant expertise, which is generally above and beyond a non-specialist employee. It is likely that a business with on-premise email will contact an external engineer in the event of a failure. They therefore put themselves at the mercy of whatever fee a business wishes to charge for an instant call out. Unplanned, unmanaged site visits can be expensive, as would be reasonably expected.
4. Data security
When using an Exchange Server, the burden of securing your email falls on the shoulders of your IT department. When using the cloud services of Office 365, security rests with the provider. Depending on which subscription you go for, you can add-on many enterprise security and compliance features.
Some businesses won’t take the risk of having no control over their own security, some however will welcome the hands-off approach. Keeping control means having the resources, time and budget to manage their security to a high standard.
Office 365 gives a business automatic updates against threats, built in protection against data loss and adherence to security standards. As a global tech giant, Microsoft’s systems are hugely protected and also comply with GDPR.
5. Updates and upgrades
Updates to Exchange Server have to be manually applied. This potentially results in some downtime to allow for it to install and apply. Alternatively the work could be managed out of hours, but at an added expense if there’s no in-house resource.
Aside from company growth dictating an upgrade, physical hardware naturally ages. When an upgrade is required, the same story applies. The device must be dismantled and the new part installed. This again may either lead to downtime during the day, or be done out of working hours.
With Office 365, the system is auto updating. Microsoft handle all the physical work in their own datacentres and software updates are delivered to users instantly. This means every employee is always working off the same software version, with no more compatibility issues.
There is also less chance of encountering a surprise capital expense. Budget therefore doesn’t have to be kept aside for purchasing servers, switches or support contracts, plus there’s the added bonus of lower power consumption.
6. More than just email
As already touched upon, Microsoft Exchange Server is purely for email. If your business wishes to use any other tools for their operations these must be purchased and managed on top. Office 365 is an all in one package for business tools (depending on subscription purchased). Microsoft are also continually developing their offering. You may find an app shows up that becomes invaluable to your business, which you wouldn’t have has the budget for independently otherwise.
Office 365 has the added bonus of SharePoint Online and OneDrive for business – document storage and collaboration apps. These give users a cloud-based storage space for their important files which doesn’t have to be purchased additionally.
If you’re looking to enable your business to be more agile, migrating from Exchange Server to Office 365 might be the right move. Say goodbye to unexpected expenses and welcome in a regular monthly payment which takes care of remote working, productivity apps, storage and security. Talk to M-Tech about the migration process today.