Posey's Tips & Tricks
Ten Years with Microsoft 365, Part 2: Adoption Costs
Looking back at the time, sanity and money I saved by switching to Microsoft's cloud platform.
In my first post in this series, I talked about what it was that made me switch to Microsoft 365 ten years ago, and I also explained that Microsoft 365 addressed the reliability issue that I had experienced. However, reliability is not the only reason why organizations adopt cloud services. As such, I wanted to take a step back and look at my Microsoft 365 adoption from a couple of other viewpoints.
One of my biggest pet peeves about the current state of the software industry is that everything seems to be subscription-based. I have always been one of those people who like to pay for things up front rather than having to make monthly payments.
At the time that I made my switch to Microsoft 365, I almost felt like I was backed into a corner. I didn’t like the idea of taking on a monthly expense, but I knew that I couldn’t afford another major outage like the one that had prompted me to make the switch.
In spite of my strong aversion to subscription-based services, Microsoft 365 has undoubtedly saved me a lot of money over the years. I have honestly never added it up until now, but let’s take a look at what my costs actually are.
Because I work as a freelancer, my Microsoft 365 subscription is ridiculously small. I have two licensed user accounts. Both of these are Enterprise E3 accounts, so my total monthly cost is $40. That means that over ten years’ time, my Microsoft 365 subscription has cost me $4,800. By way of comparison, an Exchange Server 2016 Enterprise license costs $4,051. That’s not even counting the cost of a Windows Server license (currently $1,069 for Windows Server 2022 Standard Edition or $6,155 for Datacenter Edition). Never mind the client access license costs, the cost of the server hardware, or the cost of licensing Microsoft Office.
So in my own case, switching to Microsoft 365 dramatically drove down my operating costs. In all fairness, an organization that has a lot of users probably wouldn’t see quite as dramatic of a difference. After all, I was using an enterprise solution to meet the needs of two people. There may very well be circumstances in which it is less expensive for an organization to host its own Exchange Server deployment, but I am guessing that using Microsoft 365 is probably going to be the less expensive option in most cases.
The other thing that I wanted to talk about is the impact that switching to Microsoft 365 has had on my quality of life. Granted, it seems weird to mention Microsoft 365 and quality of life in the same sentence, but I am trying to be as honest as I possibly can about my experiences with Microsoft 365 over the last ten years.
With that said, switching to Microsoft 365 has dramatically improved my quality of life (as weird as that may sound). There are three things that immediately come to mind.
As I mentioned in my previous post, at the time when I chose to adopt Microsoft 365 I was traveling five days a week. Believe me when I say that I did not want to spend what little time I had at home installing security patches, checking disk space consumption or performing other maintenance tasks. Making the switch to Microsoft 365 kept me from having to waste my weekends on server maintenance.
A second way in which the switch to Microsoft 365 improved my quality of life was that it freed me from having to troubleshoot Exchange related problems. This one might not sound like all that big of a deal, but there was one incident when I was hosting Exchange Server myself when I was up all night trying to figure out the cause of a problem. I eventually got everything fixed and I didn’t lose any data, but I missed a couple of writing deadlines and I missed out on some much-needed rest. A separate incident at another time forced me to miss a holiday gathering with my family because I needed to get my mail server working.
The third way that switching to Microsoft 365 has made my life easier is that I no longer have to deal with unexpected server repair costs (at least not related to Exchange, I still keep my file servers on premises). Whether you’re replacing a failed hard disk or an entire server, repairs are never any fun when the cost is coming out of your own pocket. One of the major benefits to the Microsoft Cloud is that Microsoft maintains the underlying infrastructure so that you don’t have to. Better still, the cost is the same from one month to the next regardless of any issues that Microsoft might be having behind the scenes.
Hopefully this series didn’t come off too much like a commercial for Microsoft, because that certainly wasn’t my intent. Instead, I wanted to convey that even though I absolutely do not believe that the cloud is the best option for every workload, my experiences with using Microsoft 365 over the last ten years has been overwhelmingly positive.
Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.