Educational institutions make a well thought out move to cloud hosting.
GUEST COLUMN | by Adam Stern
Today, owners and managers of growing schools and colleges face tough questions about whether to keep IT resources in house or move them to a cloud host. Moving Exchange to a hosted provider poses its own unique set of questions for these organizations. They must ask themselves: are we up to date on the latest security technologies required to protect our data? Are properly trained Exchange administrators managing our messaging architecture? Can we guarantee uptime at a reasonable cost? Most dedicated Exchange server hosting providers can answer yes to these questions. Many educational institutions cannot.
The benefits are there, so long as organizations do their homework.
Exchange can be deployed in three configurations:
- On-premises—Organizations host all of their Exchange Servers and provide related technical support in house.
- Cloud—Organizations avoid the overhead of managing an Exchange environment, reducing the resources required for administration and support.
- Hybrid—A mix of on-premises Exchange and cloud.
Until Exchange 2010 arrived, many organizations viewed hosted Exchange deployments with skepticism. They had concerns about the security and stability of hosted options versus on-premises infrastructures or a hybrid approach. But these concerns are rapidly diminishing.
The issue is how to secure the communication between the hosting company and the client endpoint. Today, virtual Exchange Server hosting can be more secure than an on-premises Exchange deployment. Most hosting providers have greater control over their systems’ security than an organization can provide locally. In many cases, this is via the Secure Sockets Layer, which is no less secure than externally providing Outlook Web Access.
Exchange Server hosting is also as reliable as deploying Exchange in-house. No computer system is 100 percent reliable, and when schools move to the cloud, the focus changes from high availability of its own mail servers to redundant network links. Providers make extensive investments in uptime since their business success depends on delivering on their promises. These investments tend to be more significant than what most organizations can afford on their own.
When considering a move to Exchange Server hosting, educational institutions should consider several factors in a migration, including cost. Whether public or private, the school or college must understand its existing on-premises costs for email before comparing them with Exchange Server hosting. Depending on the amount of mail data being transferred, manufacturers are usually best served by a hosted virtual Exchange Server.
The primary advantage of Exchange Server hosting is the reduction in hardware and software costs, along with reduced staff/administration costs. Still, organizations may consider cloud-based email services for reasons other than cost. Institutions may lack the in-house resources to properly support Exchange, or they may want to free up technical resources for other projects. Some schools view Exchange as too complex and too demanding on personnel.
Making the decision about moving Exchange to a cloud provider isn’t simple. Educational institutions must thoroughly investigate the various options to determine if Exchange Server hosting is the right solution. The benefits are there, so long as organizations do their homework.