By Melissa J Luther
Microsoft Exchange is a powerful messaging system popular with big businesses for its integrated mail server, email client and groupware applications, including shared contacts, folders, calendars and more.
Because Microsoft is nearly synonymous with business computing, most people are familiar with the Office software products, including the Outlook email and information management software. This ubiquity, and the ease of integrating Microsoft products into a seamless solution, makes Microsoft Exchange top-of-mind when businesses need an email solution.
Unfortunately small businesses, most without a dedicated IT staff, become frustrated with the costs as well as the time and aggravation involved with managing the multiple servers needed. Most small businesses are better off not hosting their own email server, and this is especially true for very small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
Disadvantages of Microsoft Exchange to Small Businesses
- Initial start-up costs (both money and time)— You will need to purchase multiple servers on which to run the software. You, or a dedicated IT person, will need to learn to run the software. And licensing costs can easily run $10,000 or more.
- Maintenance—Your costs do not end once you have set up everything. Servers must be maintained. Servers fail. Software fails. This all costs money to fix as well as potential lost productivity due to downtime.
- Ongoing Training — If additional training is required, either for additional users or to fix problems, Microsoft may charge you for it.
Small Businesses Can Still Take Advantage of Microsoft Exchange
In the past, small businesses would have to either deal with the cost and aggravation or find a different solution. Several alternatives to Microsoft Exchange do exist, and many very small businesses find these alternatives acceptable. Others find the alternatives are not as feature rich as they would like.
Fortunately, the rise in popularity of software as solution has given small business the ability to access a variety of enterprise-grade software solutions while bypassing the major hurdles of infrastructure costs, licensing fees, maintenance and training. Many hosting companies now offer Microsoft Exchange services as part of their hosting plans.
The hosting company gets you set up with an account and provides you and your employees with the necessary training and support (much less than what you would need to run it yourself). In return, you pay a reasonable monthly fee.
For those small businesses that would prefer to use Microsoft Exchange, a hosted solution offers the same productivity, security and anytime, anywhere access benefits without the hassles of in-house servers.
About the Author
Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC helps small businesses create and maintain a strong online presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an online presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.