Microsoft Office365 as a hosted Exchange platform offers an almost unbeatable value especially if you are tied to Outlook and a Smartphone or Blackberry. Starting at $4 per month for a basic 25GB mailbox, you get all of the features of the Microsoft Exchange experience plus ActiveSync for mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, Androids) and optionally, the Blackberry Enterprise Server functionality if you are a Blackberry user.
Prior to Microsoft Office365, to have the equivalent hosted Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync or Blackberry Enterprise Server experience from many of the well-known Internet Providers would have cost four times as much. (The introduction of Office365 has narrowed that gap to only twice as much for essentially the same service offering.)
One of the best features of Microsoft Exchange as an email platform is the ability to have absolutely synchronized mailbox folders between Outlook and any Smartphone, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Outlook Web Access. That means that no matter how you connect to your email account, every received and sent message, along with your calendar, will be visible on every device at all times. When you send a message from your mobile phone, it will synchronize and show up in the “sent” folder of your desktop copy of Outlook.
This seamless synchronization alone knocks out the free POP3/IMAP email accounts provided by the hosting providers such as GoDaddy, Yahoo, 1and1, or Rackspace. Sure, IMAP can give you a similar synchronized email experience but IMAP cannot help you with your Outlook calendar.
The obvious benefit of an off-premise, Microsoft Cloud based solution for hosting of your email vs. having your own on-premise email Server is virtually zero downtime and the ability to access your email at any time as long as you can find an Internet connection.
The next time a hurricane or windstorm sweeps through your area and knocks out the lines, any email being sent to you will be waiting for you as soon as your Internet access is restored or you can find an area that has Internet Access for you to connect – either with your Smartphone, Tablet, or Web Browser.
From a capital vs. operational cost point of view, there are those who will say, “If I purchase Microsoft Small Business Server, which includes Microsoft Exchange Licenses or even if I purchase Microsoft Exchange Licenses separately, it is a one-time fixed purchase cost. And, if I purchase a Hosted Exchange product, like Office365, I keep paying forever…”
This is all absolutely correct but there is much more to consider.
Overlooked are the additional capital costs of more powerful Server hardware and the storage required to maintain an on-premise Microsoft Exchange environment. Then there are the required license upgrades every two to three years. And for any of you that presently have a Microsoft Windows Server with on-premise Exchange, you know that the Servers do not maintain themselves. There is a never-ending series of payments to your outside IT Consultant or in larger organizations, the full time Microsoft Exchange guru to keep email operational. Even if you have a full time IT Staff, Microsoft Exchange requires some portion of their time on a continuing basis.
When you combine one-time capital and on-going operational costs together, all of these items make for a more expensive Total Cost of Ownership for on-premise Exchange then the fixed price monthly fee for Microsoft Office365 in the Cloud.
The often ignored Elephant in the room is the real tangible cost of “down time” or your inability to access your email and calendar due to equipment failure, software failure, a virus, loss of power, or what I like to call “premature building failure”, (a complete destruction of your office – think 9/11.)
Surveys show that email and calendar access are the most critical business applications. Is your business any different? Can you afford to lose access to your email and calendar? If so, for how long? An hour, a half a day, a whole day? And, maybe longer if there is an area wide disaster like the Hurricanes and Tropical Storms that swept through the East Coast in 2011 where some areas did not get their power back for over a week. No power to your office, no access to your email – and this completely ignores that even if you have power, are the wires that carry the Internet Access to your office up and operating? Communications lines are last ones on utility poles to get restored. Electrical Power always comes first.
With access to email and calendar applications, most businesses can continue to function and remain somewhat productive in times of crisis.
The slight premium of $48/year for a basic Microsoft Office365 Hosted Exchange account vs. an on-premise Exchange solution is both assurance that your Microsoft Exchange will always be maintained at the latest version with the newest features and insurance against loss of productivity due to the inability to access your office email Server.
In the long run, Microsoft Office365 lowers your total cost of ownership by providing you with greater reliability and access to your email and calendar than most small businesses could afford to implement on their own. And, the beauty of the product is that you can implement it for an office of one person or a staff of thousands.
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