Let’s face it, the cloud isn’t always the best solution. Sometimes an on-premise solution will provide a much better end user experience, or be much more cost effective. In Australia, many companies have very limited choice when it comes to internet connections. It would be nice to have a 20, 50 or 100Mbit connection, but in many cases, companies are limited to slow 1 or 2 Mbit connections, unless they pay exorbitant amounts. Moving a system up a slow link is often a very bad idea and the end user experience will suffer. When considering a migration to the cloud, most systems and applications need to be treated on a case-by-case basis, but does the same apply for Exchange? The short answer is no. There are very few reasons not to move Microsoft Exchange to a cloud service like Office 365.
In the majority of cases, an internally managed Exchange environment is more expensive to implement and operate. Exchange is a complicated product to deploy and manage and for many companies without in-house IT expertise this can mean investing in a skilled external resource. Even an in-house resource requires training and time dedicated to managing the back end Exchange environment. The on-premise environment must be maintained, Exchange and the underlying operating system must be service packed, patched and backed up. Often update tasks are undertaken outside business hours and may incur additional resource costs, and management of backups is a task that requires effort on almost a daily basis. With Office 365 there is no back end server maintenance or backup licensing costs.
The cost of Office 365 is also predictable, an on-premise solution is not. Unforeseen circumstances can create substantial additional cost for an on-premise solution. Problems such as database corruption can take a signification amount of time to troubleshoot and resolve, and create unplanned downtime and disruption to the business. Exchange in the cloud is an operating expense, not a capital expense and in most cases lowers the total cost of ownership of the email environment.
Exchange is well suited to the cloud and operating over slow links. Outlook operates in cached mode, meaning it does not need a constant connection to the server. It creates a local copy of email and connects when it needs to synchronise, eg when sending a message. Exchange is not an application that needs to be near the end user. With office 365 a user can access email via Outlook, a web browser or smart phone from any location with an internet connection, without requiring firewalls or VPN connections back into the corporate network.
In an on-premise solution, traffic for remote email users or those with smartphones is directed back down the company internet connection. With Office 365 all traffic is handled by Microsoft and the traffic burden removed from the company internet connection.
Building a highly available Exchange solution on-premise is complicated and expensive. Often multiple servers are installed to create redundant copies of data, which adds to the implementation and ongoing management cost. With Office 365 the system is highly available out of the box and managed by Microsoft. An on-premise server failure does not impact Exchange in the cloud and no one has to run around frantically replacing components in order to bring the system back online.
If a major disaster does take on-premise IT infrastructure offline, people can still access email via any internet connection. This significantly reduces email disaster recovery planning around failure of IT systems. If a company suffers a major disaster and has email on-premise, the service may take anything from half a day to a week to be restored. With Exchange in the cloud, users are likely to have immediate access to email via their smartphone even with the loss all on-premise infrastructure including the internet connection. Full recovery for email services would only require an internet connection, that could operate from any location.
There are few reasons not to move Exchange to the cloud. There is always going to be an exception to the rule, but these will be few and far between. Email is very rarely customised and in most cases a very standard service. Why not treat it like procuring a utility, the same as your phone or electricity connection. It is our recommended, safe first step in the journey to the cloud.
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