For many small and medium businesses, the prospect of implementing a complex communications infrastructure is a daunting one. And so it should be! Creating a scalable business email solution that grows with your company is no easy task.
Doing it yourself is not impossible, but there are myriad challenges that need to be taken into account.
Cost - The most obvious factor for any business is and always will be financial. Money makes the world go round. While an in-house solution may seem attractive at first glance, there are hidden costs riddled throughout. What happens when something goes wrong? You either need permanent assistance on hand, or you are going to need to bring in outside help. What is that going to cost? Moreover, what is the 'downtime' going to cost?
And then there is the cost of maintaining equipment. An in-house solution means physical hard drives on your property, whirring away 24/7. In many ways, buying hardware and software is similar to buying a 20-year-old car - it will not be as green, easily upgradeable or reliable as a new model and may end up costing more to maintain.
If there is one universal law, it is that hardware will get old and fail.
Security - Is your solution secure? While at first glance an ad hock system might seem secure, it is a fact that most small businesses do not have the resources available to implement a multi-layered security solution - leaving email vulnerable to attack. Even if you are secure now, what happens if the EU introduces new data legislation later down the line? What happens if a security patch is released to stop an imminent threat?
Scalability - Okay, so you have everything set up and it's all working just the way you want it to. A few big contracts later and you are taking on new staff. More data, more servers, more space, more time, more money. Sometimes, lot's more money.
You should know that there is no one-size fits all solution. Your CIO might be able to come up with an in-house solution. You might not have a CIO. Every company's needs are different and these are almost certain to change with time. Even if your needs don't change, the technological world around you will.
Imagine if you could take all these hassles, bundle them into a virtual ball and throw them out the window. With a hosted exchange solution that is exactly what you are doing.
What on earth is hosted exchange solution?
The cloud is becoming a well known term. Cloud based solutions are all about taking the hardware and software that used to sit on your desk (or cupboard or lap etc.) and moving them to servers hosted elsewhere (the cloud). Once it's in the cloud - you can access it from anywhere. Cloud technology is all around. Apple and Amazon are using it to keep your media in sync with all your devices and this is where most have heard the term from. But the business applications are endless.
Microsoft Exchange is the most tried and tested communications solution, bar non. Put simply it synchronises your email, calendars, contacts and messaging across all devices, integrating seamlessly with Outlook.
A 'hosted exchange solution' (cloud email) combines these two technologies to give you the very best of both worlds. Imagine this scenario:
You are on your way into a meeting and get stuck in traffic. You postpone the meeting on your Windows tablet. Instantly, the 14 other people due at the meeting receive an email telling them the meeting will be delayed. Eight of them are using iPhone, three have Android devices and three have Windows Phones. All of their calendars are updated automatically.
While in the traffic jam, you decided to clear out your inbox of the junk that has been piling up. Each email that you delete is also removed from your desktop at work, your laptop and your phone. Everything is in perfect synchronisation, all the time. No duplicate emails, no lost emails.
Thirty minutes later and the traffic still isn't moving. It looks like you are going to have to attend the meeting from the car. You pull over to the side of the road and within seconds you are video conferenced into the meeting thanks to Exchange 2013's Lync integration. The meeting goes on for sometime and eventually it's decided that the bid needs a final review before submission. It's uploaded to SharePoint where everyone can access it from any computer at any time.
One of you employees sends you an instant message via your secure communicator. Their teenage son's computer has a virus and the son has been emailing the company. You don't worry for even a second - the Exchange Server will have blocked the email before it even hits your network.
Everything above has been done without a single piece of hardware being installed on your premises. Kind of cool right? The question should not be 'do you need a hosted email solution?', it should be 'how much longer can you carry on without one?'