Even businesses with dedicated on-site IT staff have seen the wisdom of moving their email service. The advantages include per-person cost averages, cutting-edge security, cheap email storage, and simple ease of connectivity and deployment. While these advantages hold true for most organizations, there are not only exceptions but also hidden "gotchas" you should look for before selecting a cloud-hosted email provider.
Microsoft offers software licenses through a program called the Service Provider License Agreement. The SPLA model provides use of Microsoft products through a monthly user or processor based fee. SPLA software includes the Windows Operating System, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SharePoint and shoutcast hosting, and many other server based products.
This is how I started doing hosted e-mails, but I recently switched to using Google Apps. If you have a small business (up to 10 users), you can use Google Apps 100% free. Gmail handles the mail, your e-mail has your domain associated with it, and you can link that e-mail up to other Google features (Google docs, Google voice, add-on apps like a CRM or accounting). Best of all, I can sync it all effortlessly with my android phone, so now all of my e-mails still come to my phone… but they’re sorted neatly by account.
I find it really annoying that people who used to check their email regularly, now leave large intervals between accessing their messages. This seems to be a social media thing where they’re all busy putting up their lunch pictures etc. etc. up for ‘everyone’ to see. Unfortunately this behaviour seems to be spilling over to the less conscientious in their work activities and they seem to be treating digital mail with contempt in some cases. Guess it’s back to paper mail and ‘snail’ delivery – not that that always gets the attention it deserves.
Hosted email often comes as part of another service, such as web hosting or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Since that means there will be many extras available with these services, it's inescapable that you'll be paying for those extras in some way. Purchasing them usually means a slight uptick in that per-user price. Many businesses find that, once they're done selecting all of their needed "optional extras," their end price can often reach as high as $10 or more per user. This can start to add up for larger teams. It's somewhat like buying cable service: sometimes you need to pay for the channels you don't want to get the couple of channels that you need. There is also the old adage that "you get what you pay for" when it comes to quality. This is almost always true when considering an email host.
Many dedicated server providers include a service level agreement based on network up-time. Some dedicated server hosting providers offer a 100% up-time guarantee on their network. By securing multiple vendors for connectivity and using redundant hardware, providers are able to guarantee higher up-times; usually between 99-100% up-time if they are a higher quality provider. One aspect of higher quality providers is they are most likely to be multi-homed across multiple quality up-link providers, which in turn, provides significant redundancy in the event one goes down in addition to potentially improved routes to destinations.
A dedicated server, or computing server, is a server where all the physical resources of the machine are available. Unlike a virtual server, which uses a portion of the resources to run its virtualisation technology, a dedicated server allows you to benefit from all of the machine’s available RAM, storage, and computing power. With cloud computing, we can also define this type of solution as "bare metal", highlighting the physical availability of the machine’s resources, in contrast to standard solutions based on virtual instances.
One of the most important compatibility factors to consider with email is the mobility question. How often do your employees need to access email via mobile devices? That's an important issue because most email hosting providers deliver some kind of web client usable as a default inbox. Almost all of these can be accessed via a mobile device, so if your employees don't need to access their emails on the road that much, then such mediocre clients are probably fine.