Monday, December 15, 2008

How do you want to host Microsoft Exchange Server?

If you are familiar with the benefits of Microsoft Exchange Server, and you are considering deploying this robust messaging & collaboration platform, you should become familiar with your installation options. They include:

• Self hosted
• Shared hosted
• Privately hosted

Many large companies and organizations have made the investment in hosting their own Microsoft Exchange Server environments. What they have found is that the costs associated with purchasing equipment and licensing, installing the messaging system, and maintaining it over the years can be prohibitively expensive. That doesn’t mean that self-hosting is always a bad option: if you have a large, well-trained IT staff and your users are highly centralized, you may find that self-hosting is the best choice for you.

Why is Self-Hosted Exchange so Expensive?

A properly configured Microsoft Exchange environment requires two dedicated Active Directory Domain Controllers and at least one dedicated Exchange Server. All three servers must be licensed for Microsoft Windows Server 2003, and the mail server must be licensed for Microsoft Exchange. Additionally, you must license each user for both Windows Server and Exchange Server. So before you even consider hardware and implementation, a 20 user system costs between $4000 & $5000 in licensing alone. Even if you decide to get the least expensive hardware available, it is hard to conceive you could get the entire system installed for less than $6000.

The system described above is just the basic building blocks of your messaging system. There are several important components missing from the configuration, including:

• Data Backup
• Anti-virus / Anti-Spam
• Internet connectivity
• Ongoing support and maintenance

A more realistic price for installing this state-of-the-art messaging & collaboration system is roughly $10,000.

So why would any organization install Exchange Server?

Large companies get the benefit of economies of scale. The incremental cost of adding a single user to this environment is around $100. This means that systems with hundreds of email accounts can spread the equipment and licensing costs among a larger pool of users. Also, they tend to have IT staffs equipped to handle the day-to-day management of a sophisticated email system.

What is Shared Hosted Exchange

A number of companies have sprung up on the web that have created large Microsoft Exchange Server infrastructures capable of supporting thousands of users. They offer a simple solution for single users or small companies to host Exchange email. They generally offer their customers a flat fee per user. Their plans include a specific amount of storage for each user account, and they charge a nominal fee per user per month.

There are many benefits to a shared hosted Exchange Server environment. The most obvious is cost. A small organization immediately takes advantage of the economies of scale only large enterprises enjoy. And since the monthly fees are fixed, there are no surprises. In addition to having access to all the features and capabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server, most hosting companies offer access to services like Blackberry Enterprise Server and Good Link Server.

Shared Hosted Exchange has its share of drawbacks. Email accounts for your users are hosted in large cumbersome information stores, commingled with users from all over the world. Many times your users’ accounts can be spread among many different servers, leading to long delivery delays.

These systems are a one-size-fits-all approach, meaning that your organization has no control over how the massaging system is configured. If you find a great piece of software that integrates with Exchange Server, you can forget installing it. If you want to enable a protocol or integrate with a great anti-spam solution, there is no way to do it.

Management of your email system is limited to cumbersome, web control panels. System administrators prefer to have the flexibility of using Active Directory Users & Computers, System Manager, and other integrated management tools. Plus there are hundreds of specialized management utilities available for Exchange and Active Directory, all of which are off limits to shared hosted customers.

Single Sign-on is another great feature of Exchange server that is unavailable to shared hosted customers. In a traditional Exchange Server environment, users login using their Active Directory user account, and this account is also used to access their email system. That means that a single login, a single password, gives them access to all of their applications and data. This level of integration is not possible with Shared Hosted Exchange. So for companies that are public or thinking of going public, or those that are subject to IT audits, this service is not even a possibility.

Privately Hosted Exchange: Get the benefits of Shared & Self Hosted

Privately Hosted Exchange by Infinitely Virtual overcomes all the shortcomings of both Shared & Self Hosted Exchange environments. Using our state-of-the-art virtual server hosting environment, we create for every PHE customer a complete messaging system, including two dedicated Active Directory Servers and a dedicated Exchange server. And we do this for a flat monthly fee per user.

Customer designated users have access to management utilities. Every feature of Active Directory and Exchange Server may be customized to meet your organization’s needs. All third-party applications are supported.

You can add VPN to any PHE plan, and with that we support single sign-on. We can establish a trust with an existing Active Directory or you can join your servers to your Active Directory in our datacenter. Either way, you can enjoy all the benefits of an enterprise AD environment without having to design and implement it.

If any of this sounds complicated, you don’t have to worry. Our engineers provide free user account management, free implementation plans, and of course we can provide professional services to integrate your email system with the rest of your network.

How we protect your organization and your data

Every virtual server is hosted in our Enterprise VMware Virtual Infrastructure environment. Servers are clustered using VMwareHA technology, ensuring that hardware failures won’t lead to significant down time. All data is stored on our clustered SAN and connected to the Internet over our redundant switching fabric. We take six snapshots of your data per day. And every server in our environment is an HP Proliant with redundant power supplies, connected to our fully redundant power system, backed up by uninterruptible power Supplies and generators.

Find out more about guaranteed reliability for your organization’s MS Exchange Server at