Exchange Hosting – When it Makes Sense for Small Businesses
If I were to name one application which was most critical for any business today, it has to be email. It is the lifeline to virtually every modern business. Don’t believe me? Try staying away from your inbox for a day and then you will believe me!
Businesses use email to communicate with suppliers and clients; manage and communicate within teams; schedule meetings, support customers, marketing and having some fun (remember the forwards of jokes about the boss? – Yeah, that’s mission critical too!). Each day there are literally hundreds of billions of emails exchanged around the world. But have you ever given a thought to how this ”technical magic” takes place? What goes behind the scenes when you click ”Send Message” in New York and it reached its destination in ”Frankfurt” in the blink of an eye?
In simpler terms, there are email management servers which act as virtual postmen on the Internet and act just like the regular postal system does – just that they are whole lot faster. Sorry dogs, you will not be able to bite the virtual postmen. These email management servers run special software which do the logical things like finding the server to which the email has to be sent, receiving email, applying filters, checking for viruses, delivering them to the right inbox and sending back a notification to the sender server just in case there is an issue.
One such email management server software is Exchange Server developed by Microsoft Corporation and is perhaps the most commonly used email management system around the world. At its core, Microsoft Exchange Server (sometimes also called Microsoft Hosted Exchange) is an email server but it does whole lot more than just managing email. It is a complete communication and collaboration tool. Major features of Microsoft Exchange Server include email, shared calendars and tasks, video conferencing, support for the mobile and web-based access to information and storage and sharing of data amongst teams.
But wait! Just in case you are thinking that Exchange Hosting is for Large Corporations only – please don’t. In this article I am going to tell you what Microsoft Exchange can do for a Small Business and when Exchange Hosting make sense for you.
What can Microsoft Exchange do for your business?
1. Improve Productivity of your employees. By allowing your employees communicate via email whenever and from wherever they want – via web, mobile devices or using software they are already familiar with – you will be able to achieve a surge in productivity of your employees.
2. Better Customer Communication. Using smarter filtering technologies and having better email communication systems in place, you will be able to foster better relationships with your customers. Better customer relations mean more business for you!
3. Better Project Management. By allowing teams to communicate easily, share calendars and tasks and meet via video conferencing; you are giving them a tool for better project management. This means more productive teams which directly translate into hard cash for your small business.
4. Standardized Platform. Talk about the headaches of incompatibilities between systems! By introducing Exchange Server in your organization you will be standardizing the whole thing and make the entire system more streamlined.
5. It’s time to block the scum. You don’t want your employees to spend hours deleting spam in their inbox or cleaning viruses they got with email. With Exchange Server, you don’t have to – it will manage it all itself, automagically!
6. Lower your cost of doing business. By providing easy tools to your employees to communicate internally and externally and by not having them spend time on cleaning up spam and viruses, you are lowering your cost of doing business!
Now that it is clear that Exchange Server does indeed offer substantial benefits to small businesses, it’s time to decide if you want to host it in-house or you want to outsource it. To make a decision about if it is a better preposition to host exchange server in-house or whether to outsource it to a company specializing in exchange hosting, you need to consider the following :
1. Your Core Business. You need to decide what your core business is and if you want to keep doing what you do best or if you want to take this technical initiative in-house.
2. Technical Expertise. Another very important factor to consider is if you already have technical staff to rollout the system perfectly and is it worth the costs to hire more employees or train your current staff about it.
3. Infrastructure Availability. You need to consider if you already have the required infrastructure required to exchange server. If you don’t have it, then is it more cost effective to purchase and maintain your own infrastructure or should you outsource it.
4. Think about growth. Consider if you will be able to grow your technical infrastructure along with your business. What would be growth costs involved? What kind of licensing deal do you have with Microsoft and what kind of deal does exchange hosting provider offers?
If you have made your decision to outsource your exchange hosting, then you need to choose a exchange hosting provider. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when zeroing-on a exchange hosting company:
1. Service Provider’s Experience – What kind of experience does the hosted service provider have? How long have they been providing this service? Have they worked with businesses in your industry? How experienced and trained are their employees? Are they updated with the latest version? Do they have a system to test the software patches before applying them in production? Do they proactively monitor the system?
2. Service Provider’s Licensing – Have they acquired a Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA) from Microsoft? What kind of licensing will you be offered?
3. Certifications and Partnerships – Do they have any special certifications or partnerships? If they have ”gold certification” from Microsoft, then ask them what exactly they received this certification for. Do they have any other partnerships?
4. Customization and Scalability – Ask them if they can customize their service according to specific requirements of your business and if the whole system can be scaled according to requirement.
5. Ability to Migrate – Ask them how they will be able to migrate you from your existing system with minimal effort from your side. Also ask them what if you ever would want to move away from them – are there any special clauses about it?
6. Service Reliability and Uptime. Ask them how they plan to achieve maximum uptime. Ask about their redundancy plans and their disaster recovery plan. Ask them if they offer any service level agreement (SLA).
7. Support Services. Basically you would want your service provider to offer packages having fixed monthly costs. You also want them to offer spam and virus filtering systems, integration with other services like fax, voicemail and video conferencing; and help-desk services. You would also want to ask for single sign-on capabilities.
In summary, Exchange Server can offer your business substantial advantages but you must find a reliable and experienced Exchange Hosting Service Provider. Microsoft Exchange is a mission critical service for your business and your service provider should also consider it so!
Visit our Private Label Exchange Hosting Article section to learn more.