Email: Host It Yourself Or Have It Hosted For You?

Most smaller businesses have an email host, host their email for them. Whether it’s Cbeyond, Intermedia, Google or one of hundreds of other great email hosts. While many email hosts offer Microsoft Exchange other options include Google Apps, Kerio, BlueTie.
I asked email host Intermedia how businesses can decide if they should host their own email or host the email themselves. Jonathan McCormick, COO of Intermedia shared this insight.

Are there some businesses or scenarios that should consider on-premise email servers?

Businesses under 1,000 users generally benefit dramatically from hosted email. Savings range from 55 to 92 percent according to Osterman Research. Service reliability and data safety improve because of the redundancy and security hosting providers can offer – capabilities cost-prohibitive to the average SMB. Larger or enterprise-sized companies may find it beneficial to remain on-premise from a cost perspective – or given additional technology resources available in the organization.
One important factor to consider when making the decision to go server or hosted is everyday upkeep and maintenance and how much of an IT director’s time and resources can be afforded to spend on this task. It is also important to factor in the cost of replacing your server every three to five years – the average lifespan of hardware. Power outages, data loss and email freezes severely impact your business’ daily operations and success. When email server meltdowns take place, businesses look for an email provider or new hardware while in crisis mode – not the most ideal time to make business decisions.

Are there some businesses who are not best suited for hosted email?

Hosted email solutions can benefit all businesses due to the ease of management and communications capabilities they can offer. Even more, for small and mid-sized organizations, a hosted email solution often offers lower costs than an on-premise server. Large, hard to predict hardware expenses are replaced by an affordable monthly bill.
One alternative for large organizations with many branches is to have an on-premise server for its corporate headquarters and host the email for its multiple nationwide locations – many of which not have in-house IT staff.
Operating your business on hosted email allows IT staff members to focus on more important tasks that do not include the constant monitoring of servers to ensure continuous uptime. A hosted solution provides extensive support, allowing employees in the IT department to become experts in topics other than email management.

What are some things that happen at the 3 – 5 year mark of a typical email server? What are some signs that the server needs to be replaced?

With the current technology refresh cycle, within a three year period a server has pretty much hit its longevity. After three years, the mean time to failure of hardware becomes much higher than during the initial time in service. This combined with a three year period in which servers are updated, patched, poked and changed, after three years it may be time for a logical clean up as well as a hardware refresh.
Backups are another concern, outdated Tapes within a library can contribute to data integrity issues at the time you need it most, such as during a restore. Intermedia uses a 36-month hardware refresh cycle for our equipment.

For companies that are hosting their email, is their email “hosted” to the host or is it easy enough to switch providers?

A good hosted email provider will make it easy for new users to migrate to and from their system. Let’s look at the on-boarding process first. Some providers will keep the migration process costly and even prohibitive – it is important to work with a provider who minimizes or even eliminates the cost of migration and offers a set of tools to streamline the process on your behalf. Minimizing IT’s time spent on migration and system downtime must be considered when evaluating a provider’s migration approach. The right option should be able to rapidly switch over your mailboxes, distribution lists, contacts, folders and more. Migration of the actual historical email and other files is a function of data transfer times. To accelerate the process, some customers choose to download that information to disk and overnight ship it.
As far as switching providers, good providers keep customers by offering good service, not by making it difficult to leave.