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3 Reasons to Dump Your Exchange Server

Right now is a particularly tough time to be an Exchange administrator. These unfortunate IT professionals are dealing with a new product version and a brand-new service pack. They're probably in the middle of an upgrade, or at least in its planning stages. They've got a disruptive list of new features that they surely want to implement, but only if they can do so properly.

At the same time these changes are happening, e-mail is becoming an increasingly critical service. E-mail outages for many are now measured in dollars per minute, as opposed to dollars per day. Further complicating the situation are the growing complexities of e-discovery, regulatory compliance, records management and data protection.

All of these technology and legislative burdens aren't the only monkeys riding the back of today's Exchange administrator. An even bigger concern relates to the job itself: Namely, the disruptive realization that the business model for a company owning its own Exchange server makes less and less sense every day.

Trust the Specialists
Dumping your Exchange server can make good business sense. Here's why. First, the ways in which a business communicates have grown in number and complexity. E-mail and calendaring have evolved to encompass external calendar sharing, federation, instant messaging, unified communications with presence capabilities, and voice and video chat. Your business now relies on these advanced capabilities to support your communication requirements.

Problem is, outside of the largest businesses, the average Exchange admin is usually just a part-time job. The rest of the workday, those administrators are responsible for managing other portions of the IT infrastructure.

Rather than specializing, today's prototypical Exchange administrator is best described as an IT generalist.

IT generalists' lack of experience becomes a tough sell when compared with the hardened experts who work for any outside Exchange provider. All they do is Exchange, so they're likely to do Exchange very well.

Protect Your Budget
Reason No. 2 for outsourcing Exchange is absolute uptime. Setting aside again the largest of enterprises, an outside provider can guarantee a service level most will be hard-pressed to replicate inside their infrastructure. By leaning on economies of scale, such a provider simply has more resources to bring to bear in resolving the uptime problem.

Uptime notwithstanding, we're all familiar with the concerns about offloading business services to outside providers. There's an argument that outsourcing Exchange presents a risk because the outsourcer's limit of liability is capped at the amount you pay every month. But I don't agree, and here's why: In the end, an outage the provider causes is little different than the same outage caused by your local team.

Services are indeed down, but with an external provider you may have some financial recourse. With your own team, you're limited to after-action reviews and promises to do better.

One Size Doesn't Fit All
My third reason asserts that data protection and governance are activities best left to legal professionals. Today, compliance and legal regulations complicate how you must keep (or destroy) e-mail data. Working with a trusted provider who's experienced in e-mail management's non-technical nuances will save time and money during painful court battles or auditor visits.

While the largest of business organizations will most assuredly find the ROI in retaining their e-mail services in-house, smaller organizations can benefit from outsourcing. Converting the capital expenditure of e-mail services to an operational one removes much uncertainty from its cost model, even if its monthly fee might be a touch higher in the short run. Your total cost of ownership will probably go down in the long run as you shift your risk of non-compliance to your outsourcer.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

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