The day is finally here. Your trusty old Exchange 2007 server is going end of life on April 11, 2017. As a responsible and forward-thinking IT professional, you do not want to find yourself explaining why you cannot get email back online because Microsoft will not support you. It’s a bad scene.
Ten years ago, when you upgraded from Exchange 2003, 2000 or even – shudder — 5.5 to Exchange 2007, it was a straightforward decision-making process. You upgraded to the latest version of Exchange, no questions asked. Or if you were a madman, you moved to Groupwise or Notes. (If that’s the case, then this blog isn’t for you.)
But the landscape has changed and now there’s a new option. You might have heard of it: Office 365.
For those who have been cryogenically frozen until today or camped out on the island from Lost for the past several years, thank you for making my blog the first thing you read! Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud-hosted Exchange solution, Office suite, plus much, much more.
So which direction should you go? As most questions in IT get answered: “It depends.”
Migrate to Office 365
Office 365 is Microsoft’s new hotness — it’s what they want you to buy. Microsoft wants you to move to Office 365 so badly that they are adding new features and products to the lineup at a breakneck speed. You can get the Microsoft Office suite, email, SharePoint, Teams, and on and on. It’s like every time Microsoft adds a product to the lineup, they’re channeling the ghost of an As Seen on TV host: “But wait, there’s more!”
If you are a smaller business that has been running Exchange or Exchange on Small Business Server (SBS), it’s almost a no-brainer. Go to Office 365. Exchange Server licensing is going to be expensive, and there is no more SBS. It’s either Office 365 or full-blown Exchange deployments. That’s it.
Additionally, with Office 365 you can get the most recent versions of Office included. There is no worrying whether the new stuff is going to work with the computer used by Janice in Accounting. You have the proper client available. Also, no more Exchange upgrades, patches, hotfixes, or rollups. No more worrying about resources, or hardware. That’s Microsoft’s problem.
Migrate to Exchange 2016 On Premises
So why would someone bother with Exchange at this point? For most, it boils down to control.
Some organizations want their data on their systems, in their datacenter, and for good reason. Email is often the lifeblood of a business, and people don’t want to leave that in just anyone’s hands. With Exchange on premises, you call all the shots. It’s your architecture you can customize to fit your needs. Additionally, as you get into larger organizations, licensing can scale better for Exchange as a one-time capital expenditure versus an ongoing operational expense. You also have more robust backup and recovery options when you’re on premises. There are backup and recovery options for Office 365 but they’re a lot newer to the market and are less tried and true.
Start with Hybrid
Finally, this conversation doesn’t need to be an either/or conversation at all. You can achieve the best of both worlds with a Microsoft Exchange hybrid deployment. You get to leverage Office 365 AND maintain much of the control you get from having Exchange on premises. Hybrid deployments are increasingly common in enterprises seeing to test the waters of “the Cloud.”
However, your migration to Office 365 or to Exchange Server 2016 isn’t always cut and dry. Get a good migration plan in place, assess whether your hardware is up to snuff, and focus on how you can preserve your data and minimize downtime. Email is a mission-critical piece to most businesses – treat it with care.