Recently, I attended a webinar for the upcoming Exchange 2010 from Microsoft. Even though the webinar was about Exchange 2010 and its new features and potential, it made me think about Exchange server as a service or in the so called “Cloud”.

Most of you will say that Microsoft “Cloud” services are not yet ready for such a load, but I have heard only good things about their online services (Office Live Meeting, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Office Communications Online).

Considering how cheap (Yes, you heard correctly! Microsoft recently lowered their prices) and relatively easy is to set up, I can definitely see the majority of the Exchange server installations, for small-medium businesses, to move in the “Cloud” the next few years.

The Questions:

Why do you need to closely monitor Microsoft’s cloud services?

The Answer:

Microsoft makes it easy and affordable!!!

  • You only pay a flat rate based on the user license that you need for a specific hosted application. There are no hardware or infrastructure costs to consider.
  • You can reduce the IT staff that is currently maintaining your infrastructure and keeps it up to date. Microsoft takes care of all maintenance, patching and updates.
  • Your employees or clients can connect to Outlook (OWA) through any of the major web browsers. They can be virtually anywhere in the world and all they would need is a valid internet connection a computer or a mobile Smartphone, such as Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry etc.
  • Microsoft offers a great package (BPOS) of their hosted services that includes: Exchange, SharePoint, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications. You get all these cloud services for about $10 per user/per month. If you do not need/want to get all of the pre-packaged services you can opt out and “break” the package. If you do that Exchange Online will cost you about $5 per user/per month.

Going back to the beginning of this post – “Should you move Exchange Server in the Cloud?”

I would say that Microsoft has built a good platform and they are ready to provide you with most of the business critical applications as a hosted service. If you have a small or medium sized business that wants to reduce the infrastructure and maintenance overhead or wants to become more flexible and has a mobile workforce – you should seriously look into Microsoft’s BPOS (Business Productivity Online Standard Suite).

Before making final decision you also need to consider the fact that your data will reside in the “Cloud” and make sure that you feel comfortable trusting someone else, and you do not faceany compliance issues or legal concerns.