Software

Poll: Would your company get rid of its Exchange servers?

Exchange has been a predominant corporate messaging platform for over a decade. However, some companies are rethinking their Exchange strategy. Is your company one of them?

Microsoft Exchange has been a predominant corporate messaging and collaboration platform for over a decade. However, as Exchange has become more powerful in recent versions it has also become more complex to manage and administer.

As a result, a lot of companies that we talk to have not migrated to the most recent versions of Exchange and are still holding out on Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003. Many of those companies -- especially the SMBs -- are considering the possibility of getting out of the business of running their own Exchange servers altogether. They are looking at hosted Exchange, Google Apps, or one of the other hosted solutions from vendors such as Zimbra, Cisco, and Lotus.

If you are running Exchange, which version are you running and are you considering a move to a hosted solution? Answer the two poll questions and then jump in the discussion to tell us your approach to this issue.

Take the two polls

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

41 comments
BobManGM
BobManGM

I've had experience running a few different "Exchange Alts." and I wouldn't recommend any of them (no reason to dredge up the names). There is a reason why Exchange has done so well...many others are NOT equal to it.

Nsaf
Nsaf

I think Techrepublic gets a ton from Google doing articles like this.

Mohammad Oweis
Mohammad Oweis

We are running Domino server for over 10 years. Upgrading to a higher version is very simple and will take less than 30min. We have migrated 3 old servers to a brand new 3 servers in half a day! and all the wasted time was for copying mail boxes from server to server.

Networkcanuck
Networkcanuck

This year we planned a move from Exchange 2003 to either 2007 or 2010. There were some compatibility issues with another application we were using and 2010 so we went with 2007. After investigating several cloud-based solutions, the cost was the key factor and none of them came close to being as affordable as keeping our Exchange on-premise. Especially since we put everything in VMWare.

cbader
cbader

Dont see us moving towards any hosted solutions that we dont control in house.

arafique
arafique

we have already invested good enoug money on our new exchange infrastrucuture and will upgrade to Exchange 2010 in next 2 years time. We are running Exchange 2010 setup. We have moved from Google Apps to Exchange and this migration made our life (IT Dept) easier.

shawn.conrad
shawn.conrad

I would love to migrate away from exchange and put it in the cloud. There are some limiting factors to such a move though. Bandwidth and reliability of some ISPs. Because of these limitations I will keep exchange in-house. For those who can fully rely on their ISPs for Internet connectivity then they should migrate to the cloud.

tfox
tfox

We have helped a number of clients to migrate to cloud based email where appropriate. We are considering doing the same for our office when our Exchange server is due for replacement.

SwissJon
SwissJon

It's cheaper and a better option for us. It has active sync support and is simpler to manage and maintain. Would loved to have stayed with Exchange for my CV but Zimbra is cheaper and causes fewer headaches.

brian.kronberg
brian.kronberg

Email by design is store and forward. So, if your company uses just typical email with very little integrated with Exchange BPOS is usually an easy sell. However, there are many differences between running in-house Exchange and hosted Exchange so care due dilligence is required to ensure that it is a viable option.

aharper
aharper

We switched to eGroupware years ago, and it was a bit of a kludge since it was a poor fit for what we do. Our new system runs Citadel and we haven't looked back.

AV .
AV .

Right now, we're running Exchange 2003. Our plan is to virtualize Exchange and move to Exchange 2010. We looked at moving to hosted Exchange instead, but no one in my organization felt comfortable moving that very critical application to the cloud.

jlabadessa
jlabadessa

In my opinion, having an mail server in house presents many administrative challenges for small to medium companies. Redundancy for starters...most SMBs can't justify a backup email server that is comparable to production box & having to manage replication of mail store. Hosting companies have server farms with built in redundancy, not to mention redundant Internet connections, power sources...typically running in large hosting centers. We have about 50 users that run Outlook client with POP/SMTP service from Rackspace. Rackspace also offers a free Sharepoint add-on for sharing docs, calendars, discussion groups, etc.. Also, they have incorporated a fee-based Archiving service to allow email to be archived to meet legal eDiscovery requirements. Service charges are about $1200 per year for 50 users, which is nothing compared to what it would cost to implement this on Exchange. In the future, I can see us moving to Cloud for other apps.

MrRich
MrRich

Curious how it made things easier? Thanks!

stsai
stsai

We are a small business and we currently do have it in-house, though many collegues urge me to investigate google apps. My question is for those that have shifted how much more effort is it to integrate different applications with google?

mbettens
mbettens

What you just wrote is a no brainer. Who wouldn't be careful to make sure it's viable? Isn't viability the whole issue? That's kind of like saying, "whoever wants to use a computer better make sure to power it on."

TheRealGav
TheRealGav

Can you breifly cover the main reasons why your company didnt feel 'comfortable' moving to a cloud service for exchange? Or was it just a general lack of trust for the hosted/cloud service at this point? Thanks Mate

LedLincoln
LedLincoln

...within 90 days. No more server hardware and cooling, no more server licensing, no SAN space occupied, no more backups, less management. It will save us quite a bit of money in our 340 user company. Users get more storage space, and can continue to use Outlook if they prefer, or use the gmail interface.

rickscr
rickscr

The issue for many people around the world is not so much the viability of cloud based services but rather one of availability, dependability, cost and speed of the services their ISP can provide. I take care of a small office in Northern Canada and run Exchange 2007. Over the last couple of years the Internet has been unavailable several times and our Exchange server has never been down. I do not see the cloud as a practical solution till our ISP is in the position to offer faster, cheaper and more dependable services. This of course is not so much of a concern for those of you in major centers around at least the western world and much of Asia.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

as I've a merger situation on the horizon.

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

The company I work for decided this summer to do away with Exchange Server all together! We had purchased a new windows 2003 Server and went with MDaemon Mail Server as well. There were several reasons for our switch one of which is the ability to more easily sync employee Blackberry phones with the mail server.

bdskp
bdskp

Being a small company of about 120 users we decided to move to a hosted exchange solution. We decided this because I'm basically the only support person here. We have a couple of programmers and the IT director(who also wears many other hats) but they typically don't get into the day to day operations of IT. Personally I don't have much experience with managing exchange. Add to that blackberry server integration, sharepoint integration and spam filtering I'd have to learn quite a bit of stuff to manage that effectively. However, even if I did, I just don't have the time. One person can only do so much. So it's either go with a hosted exchange solution or hire another support person. Guess which is by far the cheaper solution. Yeah it's a little expensive but we rely on email quite a bit. I have to say in the almost 3 years we've been with the company we've had maybe a 1/2 hour to an hour of unplanned downtime, good support, and they add new features all the time. They offer postini spam filtering, blackberry server integration, share point integration,etc. Frankly I think it's well worth the money for what we get and the good management of the server. It's one less thing I have to worry about on a daily basis. The only downsides are it's kind of expensive, it's totally dependant on your WAN, and it does increase total traffic on your WAN lines. The reporting isn't that hot either but it gets the job done.

sadjonvee
sadjonvee

We are a medium sized enterprise - around 400 users - and we are actively planning to move to Google apps/mail and to virtualise the majority of our standard servers in the cloud. The savings we can achieve through Google mail at ?35 pa/user over a clustered Exch2010 to support and maintain is just a no brainer. Plus my users get 25Gb mailboxes that I could never justify on an internal budget; and frankly, security at google is at the very very least as good as I can afford. Many posters cite security as a/the major concern, and that really doesn't stack up too well - the amount of investmant that the likes of Google or Amazon pour into their security dwarfs the resources we end users can employ, and the use of constantly changing firewalls, multiple layers of defence, multi-vendor systems and so-on are the stuff we can only dream of. We foresee the future for most companies of our size to be maintaining an absolute minimum of our own infrastructure, with all commodity elements outsourced and likely cloud based. Our internal teams will focus on stable desktops & application development and support only.

matt
matt

...but the cost savings just weren't there. For a 2000+ system running Exchange 2007 with two CCR clusters it's cheaper to run it in house. BPOS runs $9,620.00 per month (or $115k per year) for just Exchange for 2000 users. If you have a fully dedicated Exchange team, then yes, this might make sense financially. With my team though I use a blended response package with people filling multiple roles (AD, Exchange, SQL, ad infinitum) and that cost for just Exchange is far above our current actuals.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

In South Africa, the very best line speed you can currently hope for is 4 Mb (and then only if you are less than 2 km from the exchange), and boy do you pay for it. Plus you pay for every GB of bandwidth that you use. If you have more than a handful of users on the premises who are mailing stuff to each other all the time, forget using off-site mailboxes - it takes half an hour for a mail item to get from Sue to Jenny at the next desk and pushes up your bandwidth usage. Can't have that in a service industry.

AV .
AV .

Security was a big problem for my management. I work for a mid-sized law firm and many of their client communications are through email. They are concerned with attorney/client confidentiality. They are not comfortable with the legal implications of having that data hosted outside of the firm. An IT concern is our current infrastructure. Our email is integrated with an in-house document management system. Its unclear how well that will work with hosted Exchange, but we know it will work well with Exchange in-house. Another issue is our current experience with the cloud. It isn't a critical app, but our spam filtering is cloud based. It isn't as robust as I would like it to be and its because of our infrastructure (we have an MPLS infrastructure between 3 sites). We will increase the bandwidth substantially, but my fear is what if it isn't robust enough to accommodate a hosted Exchange? AV edited: added confidentiality

Hazydave
Hazydave

My company went from hosted POP3/IMAP to Exchange on our own server, in hopes of improving email reliability and archival, and integrating calendar. What we got was a system in perpetual need of It coddling, constantly problems, broken VPNs, and all sorts of issues, replacing a system that just pretty much worked. We went Google over the summer. And what do you know... sometimes system that pretty much just works. I was a bit nervous about everything being in the cloud, no access when offline. But the combination of always-connected smartphones and Google's very effective email search makes this a hybrid win. Even their online client is quite good.

tbmay
tbmay

In fact, I've started recommending it for the smallest ones myself. As I said in another post, e-mail, by virtue of smtp, is not secure unless you're taking the extra steps of encrypting them with pgp or another mechanism. Therefore, the security concerns regarding e-mail are tied up more in where internal mails are actually stored. If you're sending mails to another server and not encrypting them yourself, they're flying through the internet in plain text, ripe for the sniffing. In my opinion, e-mail is one app where it actually makes more sense to go to the cloud but even with e-mail it need to be thought about. If your people send many internal mails where privacy is of the utmost concern, I wouldn't do it. If you can't spare times where internal e-mails are out of commission because WAN links are down by virtue of either issues with your equipment or the provider's, I wouldn't do it. These are things every organization will have to answer for themselves. The cloud is an option but I don't think it's right for everyone.

wmoses
wmoses

We also looked into the prospect of outsourcing. However, being a small bank we have certain regulatory requirements to meet. This means, 1. No Uncle Bob's discount Exchange hosting, and 2. E-mail needs to be archived for x period of time. Through the last few years here we have invested considerable time and money into creating the layers that make up our e-mail architecture. We use a combination of Open Source (time=money) and pay products (money) to ensure our e-mail is legitimate, secure, monitored, stored, and sent encrypted when necessary. We are just too invested in our e-mail architecture to change. I guess I had better start planning to migrate to 2010. Thanks for the reminder. : )

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

These cloud Exchange providers like to lump in the cost of IT staff in their ROI estimates. However, it's rare to have IT staff in small to medium businesses dedicated to just one system. Here, we maintain multiple systems and share the Exchange administration load. Hosted just doesn't make sense from a cost perspective. Take out the imaginary cost savings from your imaginary dedicated Exchange people and there's no cost benefit. Hosted only works for companies with no IT staff.

LincDK
LincDK

We have just completed a migration of 8000 people from Lotus Notes to BPOS. I wasn't involved in the cost analysis but I heard it was very much a no-brainer. Once you factor in upskilling staff, storage, backups, servers etc. While the migration was tough and there are some limitations with BPOS (most going away with Wave14) a mailbox in the cloud is definetly working for us.

melias
melias

It's easier to yell at and fire a contractor than an employee. Especially if the employee is a minority.

tbmay
tbmay

That has nothing to do with the https interface the user is using. That's the mail contents moving from one server to another. Unless the user is actively doing something like pgp...it's generally plain text. And reliability regarding cloud apps in general....think in terms of something more than e-mail. Say, google docs....you have people unable to work if you're WAN connection goes down.

tiedmyhands67
tiedmyhands67

I haven't seen any cloud based E-mail that doesn't USE HTTPS-- which is SSL on socket 443 so where the fuck do you see plain text... Go look up google apps... I inherently say that those API's and development tools are the next step... But then I could just be ever so happy to get out of sorting exchange... Which is a complete ball ache... Not too mention the mobility of it all.. and reliability... WTF Are you smoking... When has google actually crashed or "lost" someone's account... Go read the EULA-- Not just that... but also.. do you realize how many HUGE IMPORTANT Companies and school's\universities actually use google apps to host their domains... and what's even more awesome... you can upload entire domains to the cloud with a click... And yes it's secure... Sorry you nuts man... and for small bussiness's the cost saving's in actually starting up, is huge if they start from the cloud-- Now I could be wrong on how amazing these other solutions are compared to exchange... But from google buying Youtube... and using APPS to easily one two three integrate video's into your companies website... and do many other kick ass things... that would essentialy take ages on exchange not too mention the amount of training and studying... And it's secure... it's the fastest and largest growing network in the world... it's bigger than the internet it's GOOGLE... google own's 65% of the internet now and growing...

AV .
AV .

But, that doesn't really fly. Legally, you might be able to shift the blame, but no one will ever trust your judgement as a company again. In-house trumps the cloud, as far as security goes. I don't know how the cloud will ever overcome that. Big companies have a team of lawyers working day and night to figure it out though, I'm sure. AV

TheRealGav
TheRealGav

I agree with you - trust is going to be an issue for the cloud for some time. Will have to just see how the next few years play out. I heard an interesting perspective the other day about why many large corporations like the idea of cloud computing - i never really thought of it like this before but this perspective was that large corporations want to use the cloud as a way of diminishing their responsibility over their own data... Company has data leakage issues...blame it on your cloud host...security measures are breached and data is stolen...blame it on your cloud host + their responsibility and accountability for how their data is stored on the host is also reduced....as if its just one less thing for them to worry about. I dont know if this is happening or is a reason for some companies to move to the cloud, but it was an interesting perspective/theory anyway :)

AV .
AV .

Still, thats the primary method of communication. But when you talk about keeping your data offsite somewhere in a place you've never seen, it hasn't earned my trust. AV

TheRealGav
TheRealGav

Yes that is right - email is completely open across the internet unless your encrypting it. I am concerned with the same things, as i am sure most IT Departments are when considering the cloud - its just interesting to get others perspective. I am thinking of trailing 'the cloud' with just exchange first - then if it works, moving other services over. But i am not convinced the cost savings are there and that the service will be any better than that of a local setup. Security is a big issue for data and you cant really be sure who has access to your data when you move to the cloud (Joe Bloggs in your hosts data centre - what can he do?) or how reliable your services are going to be in the cloud. I think it needs a few more years to mature but still, next year - i might give exchange in the cloud a go. Should be able to test it anyway pretty harmlessly with one of our other domains for mail flow. Anyone else with comments on whats causing them to hold off?

tbmay
tbmay

...if they aren't actually encrypting it, it's flying across the web in plain text unless you're actually talking about internal mails. That said, the cloud is definitely a security concern. It is also a reliability concern.

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