Exchange: On-Premises vs Exchange Online

By March 17, 2017Uncategorized

Exchange: On-Premises vs Exchange Online

On-Premises Exchange to Office 365: Is it worth the move?

In South Africa and Africa, the growth of the public cloud has given SMBs more opportunities for a better return on investment on their IT services. Organisations that manage their email service can either keep it on-premises or migrate to an online email environment.

Microsoft has set a new tone for IT services for SMBs, with the launch of Office 365. Small businesses can now benefit in many ways from the functionalities included in one single offer to enhance their ability to work from anywhere, at any time from any device. From Exchange emails to collaboration tools and Office Apps, Microsoft Office 365 is taking over as the go-to solution for SMBs but in some instances even Enterprises, public sector as well as the banks.

When considering Office 365, organisations which currently offer Hosted Exchange environments are under pressure of churning their customer base. Businesses managing their Microsoft Exchange email system in-house are also faced with an important question: should we move our email to Office 365 or keep our Exchange servers in-house? What are the benefits and what will happen if we don’t?

Each option has its pros and cons. This article offers some guidance relating to making an informed decision when deciding between e-mail as a true cloud service or keeping it on- premise and ensuring that you align your IT cloud strategy accordingly.

So what are the advantages of running Microsoft Exchange on-premise
  1. Stay in control of your Exchange data
    Your data integrity and longevity depend on you. You decide on the backup timing for your mailbox databases and how the backups are stored or destroyed. Your data is always stored on-premises, whether it’s using online drives, backup tapes or your own remote storage.
  2. Stay in control of your activities
    The hardware and email platform are all yours. You decide on the configuration, run upgrades and changes, as well as the timing. The full maintenance is your responsibility, including the installation of updates regularly provided by Microsoft. You decide on the mailbox sizes offered to your users. You can implement as many services as you want to provide your users with: ActiveSync, Webmail, public folders, transport rules, etc.
  3. Having more flexibility for your customisations
    In-house Exchange servers offer more flexibility when it comes to the integration of third-party applications. As long as both the Exchange and other application servers are hosted on the same local network, it’s much easier to interconnect them. You can set email for your multifunction printers, notifications for your customer relations management applications, communication to receive faxes through email and more.
 Disadvantages of running Microsoft Exchange on-premises
  1. Why spend so much on hardware and license costs?
    Your initial investment is not the only cost associated in running a Microsoft Exchange on-premise environment. Maintaining both the hardware and the application requires resources, and an appropriate budget. Your hardware needs to be refreshed or replaced every few years. Licensing versions needs to be updated and you stand the risk when not running the updates timeously.Furthermore as technology evolves and new versions of Exchange are released it sometimes requires different configurations than the previous version. The administrators taking care of the platform need regular training to keep up with changes in technology. These are costs you can’t necessarily control, but have to factor into your overall budget.
  2. What are the security risks to your business?
    Whatever happens, you have to resolve problems as quickly as possible. You therefore must be proactive to configure your network, systems, and Exchange platform against possible threats. This may require you to hire more professionals and get support contracts with your security solution manufacturers. Security incidents do occur and they may have disastrous consequences.
  3. Can you provide guaranteed uptime and availability?
    The reliability and uptime of your in-house Exchange solution absolutely depends on how much you are willing to invest in the platform. Guaranteeing a 99.99% availability or better requires a costly infrastructure.
  4. What would be the impact on your business if your data is lost?
    Since your data is stored in your own hardware, if a disaster occurs and you don’t have a proper Disaster Recovery Plan, you might lose your email and servers. Building a business continuity strategy can be very costly, depending on the options you choose.
The beauty of Exchange Online (Office 365)
    1. Full scalability at your fingertips
      Some Office 365 offers include email, calendars, and contact management. You get exactly the same basic features you have on your on-premises Exchange platform with a guaranteed service level. Each user gets 50GB of online email storage that can be synced on smartphones (including BlackBerry devices), tablets, PCs and MACs using ActiveSync. You only purchase email accounts for the number of users you have.
      There is no need to overspend to guarantee for future account storage. In the same way, you can also decrease your number of licenses freely from one month to another. You can set up the service for a new employee in minutes.
    2. Huge savings when you move to a Capex model
      Price flexibility is one of the biggest values of Office 365, because you get more than just the email service with your subscription.
      First, there are different plans to choose from. Second, depending on your needs, you can either choose to have Office Online, or the Office Suite installed on your devices, or both. The Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) can be installed on up to 5 mobile devices, 5 PCs and 5 MACs, for each license. Third, don’t forget that you also have access to other services that you’d pay for if you installed them on-premises. A non-exhaustive list includes SharePoint Online, Skype for Business, and OneDrive for Business. Finally, you manage all your services from the same point, which makes life easier for you and provides end to end productivity to your users.
    3. Reduce risk of losing your email data
      As one of the top global cloud providers, Microsoft invests a lot in security so you can have peace on mind for your IT services. You can enable multifactor authentication for your accounts to harden the access to your email. Microsoft also provides a guarantee against disasters such as power outages, floods, fires, and more, so your business can still carry on, no matter what happens. Cloud providers make sure they have backups to restore data whenever it’s necessary.
    4. Always up to date
      With Exchange Online, you always have the latest solution for your email. You get access to all the enhancements and innovations for servers and clients as soon as they are released. Your users can quickly adopt the changes to enhance their productivity. There is no need to plan for a long upgrade, as everything happens seamlessly. Your corporate IT teams aren’t involved in the change.
Disadvantages of Exchange Online (Office 365)
    1. Migration can be a hassle
      Depending on the Exchange version you’re running, the steps to complete the migration might require a lot of effort, starting with the prerequisites. Finding a deployment partner with the skill to complete a hybrid deployment and migration project is critical and will require a once-off professional services cost. Working with an MSP, you can benefit from expert advice and get a dedicated team that can guide you through the process. This will guarantee a smooth transition and a quick adoption of Exchange Online.
    2. Rolling back to an on-premises solution is uncertain
      If you host Exchange servers in-house, you have full control over your platform and how it evolves. With Exchange Online delivered through Office 365, you benefit from the most stable environment for your email that includes all innovations and enhanced functionalities as soon as they are released. You are free from paying for initial maintenance and upgrade costs because you pay a flat monthly fee for Office 365 email. However, you lose flexibility when it comes to the integration of third-party applications. You might also not know how you can integrate your data back into your organisation if you want to cancel your Office 365 subscription.
    3. You give up some of the administrative control
      Because the infrastructure is set for multitenancy, you don’t have access to the Office 365 Exchange servers. You cannot configure third-party solutions that include mass mailing of Internet messages or require an installed software component on the Exchange server. You don’t get a root or administrator password for anything. Office 365 is set for the best security.

The choice is yours however Microsoft Exchange Online is a very attractive proposition to customers. First Distribution suggests looking into hybrid cloud options for email and other solutions. If you are interested to learn more about how Office 365 can help your business improve productivity and collaboration, let us know…

For more information on First Distribution’s range of Office 365 solutions, please contact us on