Hosted email is a breath of fresh air to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). No licensing costs, no server space eaten up by email and someone else takes care of the maintenance, updates and ensures everything works smoothly. There are various options for outsourcing Microsoft Exchange email, including Microsoft itself through an Office 365 subscription. This might seem like the lowest-risk option but this is not always the case, especially for SMEs. When it comes to finding the right hosted provider, SMEs should consider the following:

1. Consider The Business Impact Of Email Failure

Do you have the expertise and time available in-house to migrate your email to a hosted service? Are you happy with no tech support available by phone? Is three quarters of an hour without email a month acceptable to you? If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription is probably not the right solution for your business. It doesn’t offer migration services or certify a third party to do it for you, it doesn’t provide phone support with its small business plans and its service level agreement (SLA) guarantees 99.9 per cent up-time. A good hosted Exchange partner, by contrast, can offer much more reliable uptime, phone support and will offer fully managed migration services – at no additional cost.

2. Check You Won’t Break The Data Protection Act

Microsoft does not guarantee where it stores its data for Office 365 and can move customer data to any of its global data centres without notification. This can be a problem for businesses if their data is stored in countries with unknown privacy and intellectual property laws. Businesses using Microsoft Office 365 but needing fully compliant email archiving capabilities where data is written once and stored in perpetuity – with no ability to delete or modify messages or attachments – are forced to use non-integrated third-party vendors. On the other hand, a hosted Exchange provider can offer a fully compliant email archiving solution that is integrated into the administrative control panel.

3. Review Your Growth Forecast

Office 365 has strict user limits for each subscription tier. Moving between levels requires a full cloud-to-cloud migration, which forces SMEs to manage the time, cost and complexity of moving to a ‘new’ cloud. Growing businesses may face multiple migrations within a short time, reducing the benefit of cloud deployment. Businesses with aggressive growth plans are better suited to a hosted Exchange partner that does not put user limits on plans.

4. Check The Size Of Your Attachments

Look through your sent items that contain attachments and note how big they were. If you need to send attachments bigger than 25MB, you will find Office 365 restrictive. Hosted Microsoft Exchange email partners are often more generous than Microsoft when it comes to usage limits.

5. Know What You Need & What You Don’t

If everyone in the business has the same email usage needs, it makes sense for everyone to be on the same plan and deployment model; Microsoft requires that the entire company uses the same plan and Exchange 2013. However, companies whose users have different needs have to choose between satisfying the requirements of the most demanding users with a more expensive plan for all or choosing a lower-priced plan for all users that does not provide all the features needed by the demanding users.

Good hosted Exchange partners support multiple versions of Exchange and help businesses purchase Office productivity software only for the users who need it. They offer the flexibility of adding lower-cost web email services such as POP or IMAP for users who don’t need Exchange, while allowing administrators to manage user deployments via a central control panel—including adding and removing user licences. They also offer Active Directory integration, which isn’t available for Small Business plans with Office 365.

All of these considerations affect the relative value and cost of any solution comparison. For SMEs seeking a hosted Exchange partner, it’s not a case of looking for the cheapest option or the one with the greatest capacity. Every business has different needs and must know what they are when comparing risks – and costs.


Ed Macnair

Ed Macnair is Intermedia’s MD EMEA and is responsible for sales, marketing and product development in the EMEA region. He joined Intermedia in 2013 through the acquisition of SaaSID, a UK-based single sign-on and application security vendor, of which he was founder and CEO. Ed brings to Intermedia more than 25 years of sales and business development expertise in the technology and IT security sectors. Before SaaSID he was CEO of Marshal, a global e-mail and Web security company based in the UK. After tripling its revenues over a three year period, Marshal merged with US Web security provider 8e6 Technologies to form M86 Security. Ed has previously held senior management positions with MessageLabs, Symantec, IBM and Xerox.