Hosted Exchange vs Office 365

Cloud servicesBusinesses are increasingly using cloud computing to save money and improve efficiency. Migrating the on-premise Exchange server is a key step that can improve performance and cut costs. There are essentially two routes to the cloud: a hosted Exchange solution, or a move to Office 365.

Hosted Exchange and Microsoft Office 365 are both valid choices, but they are not the same solution. The former provides email services in the cloud, while the latter is a virtualised version of the Office suite. Both do provide reliable and scalable email services, but there are some fundamental differences that can make or break a successful migration.

About Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud version of Office, and it includes desktop software on a rental basis. It ‘feels’ the same as the traditional version, so there’s nothing new to learn. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how eager you are to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem.

Businesses buy Office 365 on a subscription model, and there are various levels of service on the menu. The most basic is Email Only. If you pay more, you’ll get access to Web Apps – online versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word – with a license to install the desktop equivalents.

Hosted Exchange is Different

Office 365 is purchased from Microsoft, but hosted Exchange is provided by a number of third parties (like Cloud 4, for example). Hosted Exchange always includes Exchange email in the cloud with support for calendars and tasks.

Hosted Exchange providers will tell you exactly where your data is stored, and precisely which countries’ privacy laws are protecting it. This is vital if you need to follow governance procedures to protect sensitive data. If you do business in the UK, it makes sense to choose a provider that will not transfer your business data across international borders.

It’s sensible to check basics like mailbox size, since those irritating mailbox warnings are the number one bugbear people have with traditional Exchange servers. Ensure Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are in place and offer adequate protection. Note that SharePoint access is not normally included with hosted Exchange, but it may be something you can bolt on.

Weighing It Up

If your organisation uses services like Google Apps (including Google Docs and Sheets), Office 365 is overkill, since you need to rent all of the software alongside the service. Sure, you can purchase the Email Only version, but then you may as well go to a third party for hosted Exchange. Even Active Directory support isn’t included on the cheaper plans.

If your goal is to have rock-solid service and unbeatable uptime, hosted Exchange ticks both of those boxes. For small businesses, hosted Exchange provides the core functionality employees need alongside flexibility of choice. SMEs can adopt solutions from other vendors, rather than being tied into Microsoft’s systems for everything.

Your hosted Exchange provider will help you to migrate your Exchange server over to their cloud platform; this is something Microsoft cannot offer with Office 365. Your provider will also let you know how to change your email server details on any devices already in use; Microsoft offers no phone support for SMEs at all.

Convinced? Activate your free hosted Exchange trial now.