If you were thinking about migrating email into Office 365 we have outlined several pros and cons related to on-premise Exchange and the Office 365 solution that we think you will find helpful to make a decision. It’s almost been 5 years since Microsoft launched their Office 365 solution which is geared to help small businesses (SMBs) benefit from email collaboration tools and Office apps in the cloud. The Office 365 solution is getting better in our opinion and even though it’s still fairly new to the market this is one of the cloud offerings we recommend taking a hard look at. None the less, our goal here today is to educate you about the pros and cons and to potentially help you make a sound decision for your business.
Pros of Office 365:
- Cut Costs: Not only do you get your email service with the subscription you can choose from different plans and use Office online or get the Office suite included. The Office suite can be installed on up to 5 devices per user which is helpful and saves money. Other options depending on the Office 365 plan you buy will include SharePoint, Skype for Business, or OneDrive for Business. This full suite of solutions can be very useful for SMBs who are starting up or considering a technology change.
- Scalability: There is no need to overspend for future account storage and you can decrease your licenses month to month if you wish. The Office 365 solution offers the same basic features as your on-premise Exchange platform and users get 50GB of storage and can sync with their phone, PC, or even Mac. Management is also performed via one easy to use portal.
- Reduced Risk of Data Loss: Microsoft provides a guarantee against major disasters such as floods, fires, power outages, etc. so your business can forge forward no matter what happens. Basically, cloud providers make sure they have backups to restore data when necessary. That is the idea anyway. We still do recommend local onsite backups to enable control over I.T. systems by your local I.T. provider.
- System Updates: Microsoft automatically upgrades the ‘Exchange’ server in the back-end so you always have the latest solution for your email. Basically, you get access to all the innovations and enhancements for the ‘servers’ and ‘client software’ as soon as they are released. No exhausting plan for a long upgrade as everything happens seamlessly…at least most of the time.
Cons of Office 365:
- Migration Hassle: The amount of applications and users that integrate and use email is daunting. For example, digital fax software, shared contacts, scanners, smart-phones, line of business applications, billing software that sends invoices, anti-spam, etc. and not to mention having to update all documentation for best practices and related processes. We highly recommend working with an MSP to benefit from expert advice and to guide you through a successful process.
- Administrative Control: You don’t get an administrator password to the Exchange server and you cannot install any third-party solutions that integrate with the Exchange server. Basically, Office 365 is setup for high-level of security which eliminates control and promotes a multitenancy infrastructure which basically means the Office 365 solution services a group of users who share a command access with specific privileges.
- Canceling the Subscription: If you decide to cancel your subscription with Microsoft and want to roll back into an on-premise Exchange to get rid of the pesky monthly payment this migration can be as difficult as moving to Office 365 in the first place.
Pros of On-Premise Exchange:
- Data Control: Having an On-Premise Exchange server enables SMBs to have full control over their data in terms of integrity and how long to keep it. When to backup mailbox databases, where the data backups are stored or deleted. Basically, the data is always stored On-Premise onto the storage devices the SMBs choose to use.
- Activity Control: The server hardware and software is owned by the SMB. This enables full control over configurations, upgrades, changes, as well as the schedule around when it all happens. The size of mailboxes and services such as Public Folders, Webmail, ActiveSync, custom rules, etc. is all under full control.
- Flexibility: When your On-Premise Exchange server is on the same network as all the computers, servers, network devices, scanners, line of business applications, etc. the solution is more flexible in terms of integrating 3rd party apps.
Cons of On-Premise Exchange:
- Higher Upfront Costs: SMBs must buy the physical hardware (a server), Windows server operating system, the Exchange software and licenses in addition to maintaining both the hardware and software. Not only that, the hardware and sometimes the software needs to be refreshed or replaced every few years.
- Possibility of Data Loss: If a disaster occurs and the SMB doesn’t have a disaster recovery plan, this could be incredibly detrimental to the business. Alternatively, the SMB could create a business continuity plan however those can be expense depending on the level of recovery.
- Up-Time: If your SMB requires 99.99% up-time for systems this requires a very expensive infrastructure. For example, failover servers, generators, after-hours support, etc. The reliability and availability of your On-Premise Exchange server depends on how much you want to invest in the solution.
- Security: Securing the On-Premise environment requires that all the systems on the network are up-to-date and the network, computers, systems, etc. are protected against possible threats. If and when a security incident occurs it requires lots of time to solve and can be very costly.