Thinking about moving Exchange to the cloud? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Blog by: John Rider, Pre-sales Architect - 22-May-2018

Since Office 365 was officially launched in June 2011, businesses have benefitted from functionalities included in one single offering. From Exchange emails to collaboration tools and the familiar Office apps accessible from multiple devices, SMBs and enterprise organisations alike benefit from a stable full of functionality.

When considering a move to Office 365, companies that have traditionally managed their Microsoft Exchange email system in-house are faced with an important question: should we move our email to the Cloud or keep our Exchange servers in-house?

As a company well versed in cloud migration having helped hundreds of companies make the move, we thought we’d cover the most common advantages and disadvantages of a move to Exchange Online. In the words of Robert Baden-Powell, ‘Be prepared’.

Advantages of Migration

Increased reliability
Moving Exchange to the cloud means that email will still be accessible with little to no noticeable interruptions, without the hassle of having to maintain on-premises hardware. Most cloud vendors offer competitive uptime guarantees of up to 99.9%, and Microsoft has even been known to exceed that number. That said, if the migration isn’t planned and executed properly then your business could experience downtime during the transition. Make sure you choose a cloud partner that is well practiced in migrations so you suffer no loss of productivity.  

Enterprise-level security
With Microsoft 365 small and medium sized companies have enterprise-level security that was once only affordable to big business such as multi-factor authentication to harden access to your email. Microsoft invests billions into its data centre infrastructure and geo-redundancy of its operations, ensuring it meets compliance standards including EU Safe Harbor and ISO 27001.

Security is also automatically updated for you

Reduced costs
In the long-term, most organisations will experience reduced costs due to lessened capital expenditure on servers and lower operational costs, as well as reduced management time to maintain on-premise Exchange.

Increased flexibility
Price flexibility is one of the biggest values of Office 365, because you get more than just the email service with your subscription. Additionally, you have the flexibility to choose from a variety of plans and pick from an abundance of other services that you wouldn’t have access to with the on-premise option.

Get the scalability you need
There is no need to overspend to guarantee for future account storage. You can increase or decrease the number of licenses from one month to another, flexing with seasonal demand, for instance. Naturally, you can easily set up the service for a new employee in minutes.

Backup and Disaster Recovery functionality included as standard
Microsoft provides a guarantee against disasters such as power outages, floods, fires, and more, so your business can still carry on, no matter what happens. Microsoft also allows admins to customise retention for deleted items in Office 365.

Although the service provided by Microsoft is not a substitute for an all-encompassing backup and disaster recovery solution, it is a straightforward process for your cloud partner to add these services to Office 365 and particularly to Exchange Online. 

Always up to date
With Exchange Online, you always have the latest solution for your email. You get access to all the enhancements, innovations and security patches 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 so your users can quickly adopt any changes to enhance productivity.

Disadvantages of Migration

Loss of Control
When a company moves into a cloud infrastructure, control is lost to some extent as the environment is hosted and no longer on-premise. For example, in certain file types are restricted, such as XML files for security protection. Additionally, you cannot configure third party solutions that require an installed software component on the Exchange server. Though this may seem unnecessarily restrictive, it enhances your security posture.

Upfront Costs
Moving Exchange to the Cloud generally lowers capital costs in the long term, but an organisation needs to ensure that they can cover all the short-term costs involved. These will include resources for planning and performing the actual migration.

Increased Bandwidth
Some organisations moving to Exchange Online, especially those with a highly collaborative culture may need to double or even triple their bandwidth provision. Increased bandwidth means increased costs.  

Email availability
Should internet connectivity fail then email – both internal and external will be unavailable. With an on-premise solution, emails can still be sent and receiving internally over the local area network. Potential loss of service is unacceptable for some companies who will be forced to purchase additional services to maintain email availability in case of internet failure.

The Migration Itself
A poorly executed Exchange migration can result in needless, prolonged downtime as well as lost time and wasted resources. To mitigate against this risk, select a managed services partner to guide you through the process and ensure you create a migration plan that management buy in to. These two actions will guarantee a smooth, pain-free migration and result in the quick adoption of Exchange Online. 

To sum up

In the blog, we have discussed about the pros and cons of moving Exchange to Cloud. It is recommended that organisations consider all the aspects like migration plan, security standards provided by Cloud vendor etc. before moving Exchange to the cloud.

In a nutshell, if you host Exchange servers in-house, you have full control over your platform and how it evolves. However, with Exchange Online delivered through Office 365, you benefit from the most stable environment for your email that includes all updates, patches 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 do lose flexibility when it comes to the integration of third-party applications, which can be a deal breaker for some organisations.

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Topics: Security, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Microsoft 365

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