Hosted Exchange and Email Platforms: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

09/13/2013

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Once upon a time, most company’s communication needs were met by phone calls, snail mail and face-to-face meetings. Today, businesses have a multitude of options, but less time than ever for choosing their most critical form of business communication: email. So, how does one choose the best email platform? Let’s break down some pros and cons of the most popular hosted email solutions.

Gmail

Despite Google’s mammoth presence across the web and email communications, we hear about Gmail’s compatibility issues surprisingly often. The reality is that while Google may be an inexpensive option for businesses, the switch can be a nightmare.

Unfortunately for Google, Microsoft has dominated the business application suite space for just a few years longer than Google has existed. Microsoft Office is the standard platform with which to run even the most basic business functions. Additionally, just about every single industry application including CRM packages, workflow applications, accounting packages and inventory control in every industry is written to integrate with MS Office, MS Exchange and MS Outlook email platform. Almost everyone (including your current and potential future employees) is familiar with and already trained on MS Outlook and the MS product suite. So unless you’re willing to bear the burden of the training and culture shock that Gmail’s steep learning curve necessitates, then changing to Gmail won’t be the most beneficial choice for enterprise email.

Outlook 365

It seems like Microsoft has taken over the world, doesn’t it? Outlook 365 cures most, but not all compatibility issues. Sadly, Office 365 forces businesses to make sure their internal applications integrate with their email in order to migrate the same features and functionality over to Outlook 365. The difficulty of this depends on a business’ exact needs in relation to Microsoft’s hosted configuration flexibility. While it may sound simple enough, it isn’t always guaranteed that Microsoft is going to open custom ports or special security requirements in order to link a company’s internal applications with Office 365. In addition, Office 365 hosted email is not compatible with the older versions of MS Office. Because of this, legacy clients may incur significant upgrade charges prior to an Outlook 365 migration – or even worse, find out during migration.

What about technical support? How much time, energy and productivity dollars is a company willing to waste by calling 1-800-MICROSOFT and being placed on hold? The prerecorded message for incoming emergency support calls during two recent and major Outlook 365 outages were roughly as follows, “You have reached Office 365 technical support. We are aware of a current outage with our hosted email services. No further information is available at this time. Thank you.” What modern business can survive with that kind of response to the complete collapse of their entire email platform (which has pretty much replaced the telephone as primary means of business communication)? Any time I’ve had to manage my IT solution by dialing an 800 number to reach someone on the other side of the earth to fix a problem, I know I’m facing a considerable loss of productivity – a loss of productivity that should have been avoided by moving to the cloud.

Hosted Exchange with Private Cloud Hosting Provider

Ah, private cloud hosting providers. There are dozens in your state, hundreds in your region and thousands nationwide. Who do you choose, and why choose them over Microsoft or Google? The reality is that a private cloud hosting provider offering MS Exchange services generally presents the best and most flexible option for getting rid of a legacy Exchange server and moving email to the cloud. Firstly, a private cloud provider will almost certainly be more open to custom configurations and linking to other internal applications, as these providers have direct access to the Exchange servers they are hosting and managing. Most private cloud Hosted Exchange providers will have their Hosted MS Exchange platform split across multiple data centers, providing valuable redundancy to the application, and a responsive support center to back it up. This provides the white glove service that most small businesses need. Other benefits may include hands-off migration, wherein the provider will not only ensure a seamless migration, but will also provide onsite support when necessary to accomplish email migration goals. Private cloud computing service pricing is usually a match for, or within pennies of, Outlook 365. And with better, faster and more competent customer support, plus enhanced features, can a move like this prove important to your business in both the short and long run?

We think so.

 

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