The Hosted Exchange service industry has recently seen the same exponential growth that many other technical fields underwent. With a myriad of web hosts, data centers, IT firms, and even telecom providers that are starting to offer Microsoft Hosted Exchange services, it can sometimes be a daunting task for a consumer, whether a small business or a large corporation, to pick a provider that adequately fits their needs.
There are certain things that a Microsoft Hosted Exchange provider needs to have in order to remain competitive. Just as an ISP must have a strong backbone connection to the Internet or a good web host must have reliable web servers, a Hosted Exchange provider must offer a certain level of base services. The following is a list of concerns to be aware of:
- Experience â€“ Experience does a lot more than give a company’s credentials on paper- it also shows that the company has the technical knowledge and capability to correct mistakes and handle random errors as they occur. If your server goes down, the provider should be capable of resolving the issue quickly and without delay. This is especially important of Hosted Exchange servers, as there are often dozens of other clients that are operating out of the server, making the configuration and maintenance of the server a complex task, and certainly not one to be left to a neophyte IT technician.
Inquire about the experience the company that you are considering has. Be as specific as possible. Just like all other things related to the Internet, Hosted Exchange has undergone several transitions, including some pretty significant technological updates. Try to find out how their support system, including their monitoring software, has been at being proactive in predicting and negating downtime or server-side issues.
Ascertain about previous ability to handle Exchange upgrades, and also inquire about plans to incorporate future revisions into the architecture. If they have no idea what you’re talking about or where you’re going with it, you may want to look at other options
- Licensing â€“ Microsoft is very particular on who can offer its Hosted Exchange services. The company that intends to offer it must acquire a SPLA (Service Provider Licensing Agreement) from Microsoft, and part of the process to obtain that agreement is the training of the companyâ€™s technicians on Hosted Exchange servers.
Often, companies will advertise that they are a ”Gold Certified Partner”- this can be misleading, as there are many areas where someone could obtain a gold certification. Ensure that they obtained their certification in an area specifically engineered for Hosted Exchange.
- Exclusivity â€“ You wouldnâ€™t want to host your website with a web host that is also an ice cream shop, would you? Why would you use a Microsoft Hosting Exchange company that anything else?
Look for a Hosting Exchange provider that concentrates heavily on Hosting Exchange. This shows dedication and commitment to their core product (Hosting Exchange), as well as towards relating technologies and products.
- Technical Capability â€“ What other certifications does the firm have? If they offer no other guarantees of technical ability and training, you may want to reconsider your choice to use them. Microsoft Hosted Exchange is a very complicated product, and you donâ€™t want anyone handling it that doesn’t have complete confidence and training in what they’re doing.
We’re not talking the $50 ”Microsoft Certified A+ Technician” labels either- look for major industry recognition, such as ”Microsoft Gold Certified Partner,” ”Microsoft Certified Partner,” and even post-secondary degrees or certifications.
Also be on the lookout for included services, such as VoIP, regular backups, archiving, or mobility support. These are not necessary in order to run a Hosted Exchange, but they are a nice benefit that adds convenience and performance to your Hosted Exchange solution.
If anything, look to see if your Hosted Exchange provider hasÂ mobile exchange included in your package. Wireless e-mail is to business what digital cable is to television: a revolution in convenience and capability. Having your staff being able to keep in contact cheaply on the road, along with having access to shared resources and files, will give you the one-up on your competitors that donâ€™t. Other things to watch out for are:
- Internet Fax â€“ Send and receive faxes online. This service is effectively eliminated the need for the traditional fax machine.
- Outlook Web Access â€“ This service really adds to your ability to perform when you are traveling. Essentially, it allows you to access your e-mail accounts from anywhere that has internet access. Think of it as ramped up web mail.
Your choice of Hosted Exchange Service Provider is going to be an important one, so itâ€™s crucial that you do your homework and find the best possible provider for your budget and specific needs. Finding the right service provider will save you headaches, downtime, and possibly even contractual problems later on.