Do you remember when everyone thought emails would go the way of the fax machine? In an age of iPhones and exchange hosting services, that’s not happening. In fact, the number of emails being sent and received each day is set to grow by another 20% in the next 3 years to 362 billion per day.
But not all hosted servers are created equal for email delivery or email migration. And it’s not hyperbole to say that exchange hosting services can have a significant impact on the security and productivity of your business.
So let’s start with what exchange hosting services mean and the different choices that small businesses have.
Why choose exchange hosting services?
Before we get into the specifics, it helps to put them in the context of the other business email servers that you can use as an SME. For hosted Microsoft Exchange, email clients, dedicated exchange and more, here’s a breakdown from bad to best.
These are the email addresses most people use for their personal email. But “BUSINESSNAME@yahoo.com” does not scream professionalism. There are also several other drawbacks.
For example, a lot of personal email services will use an algorithm to read the content of your emails to personalise their ads more effectively. It’s not too surprising that most SMEs quickly move on to option number two.
Shared email hosting
Usually, when you buy a domain, your web hosting provider will also supply free exchange mailbox to send and receive emails via your own URL. There’s just something far more reassuring for customers to receive an email from hello@BUSINESSNAME.com.
However, even if you pay extra for dedicated server space to host your website, your email hosting is often shared. That means your communication can be routed through the same IP address as hundreds of other domains.
So, if one of those domains is flagged for firing out spam, then everyone on that IP address will see their messages going straight to the junk folder.
The spam issue goes both ways. Shared email hosting usually has very rudimentary spam filters. However, the biggest issue is the lack of security built-in. It’s cumbersome work to set up and manage your own POP or IMAP service to receive emails.
But sending them through the SMTP protocol can leave them at risk of being exposed due to a lack of inbuilt encryption.
Dedicated business email
In short, a dedicated business email is another way of saying Microsoft 365. Of course, there are other platforms available (not including their previous incarnation as ‘Office 365’). But Microsoft 365 is the most popular by far because it offers a range of collaboration features and security that you just cannot get with the previous two options.
Microsoft 365 options including Business Basic, Business Standard and Business Premium, the full Office solution. Instead, for email only, you can opt for Exchange Online. All offer you automatic updates against new security threats, protection against data-loss, basic email retention and disaster recovery.
Moreover, as your business grows, they are also easy to scale. And unless you choose Exchange Online, you will have some form of access to essential Office apps. For instance:
- Microsoft Outlook.
- Outlook Web Access.
Another thing to be aware of with regards to Microsoft 365 Personal and 365 Family: they are not ideal for business use. Additionally, with these accounts, Microsoft can take your content and use it for its own promotional purposes. Chances are slim that your content might end up in some public forum, but it’s something to consider.
Exchange hosting services
Exchange hosting services provide a dedicated Microsoft Exchange server, privately hosted in the cloud.
So: what’s the difference between Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Exchange? Well, Microsoft 365 offers you a rigid package hosted by Microsoft itself. But exchange hosting services allow you to create a completely bespoke email management service.
Because it’s privately hosted, you can pick the best elements that the platform has to offer. That means for the same or lower cost, you also get additional features and far greater control.
Why exchange hosting services make more sense
Whatever your size as an organisation, there are some common factors that everyone wants from their hosted email solution. And it just so happens that exchange hosting services nail each of them.
1. Better privacy
Firstly, and most importantly, you do not get any algorithmic snooping on your email content as you would with a generic email service like Gmail. And you still get the same automatic security updates as Microsoft 365.
Because everything is separately and privately hosted, you have full control over where your data is stored. For example, if you are a UK business you can use a data centre service. Particularly one that stores and hosts all your data in the UK, making GDPR compliance much simpler to demonstrate. While Microsoft 365 is certainly secure, you are still sharing your exchange with other companies and you do not really know where your data is held.
2. Customised collaboration
Exchange hosting services allow you to select the collaboration tools you want to include in your email service. While Microsoft limits your collaboration options to three different packages, a bespoke exchange allows you to create a tailored platform that will maximise the productivity of your business.
Your products and services can include shared contacts and calendars, appointments, video conferences and integrated VoIP calls. You can also access more apps via the cloud such as Publisher and Access.
3. Superior anti-spam
Spammers are a sneaky lot. In some cases, they have moved on from sending out badly worded sales pitches to millions of addresses. Instead, they are crafting handwritten ‘artisanal’ spam and sending it to mere thousands.
Lower volumes and higher quality content can make it difficult for even robust filters to notice. As a result, relying on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ spam filtering solution can be problematic. But with a bespoke exchange, you are in full control of what gets through.
4. Stronger email account backup
If you have ever panicked about deleting the incorrect email, then you will appreciate the value of being able to fully restore them whenever you need. Compare that with Microsoft 365, wherein your recovery opportunity is limited to just 14 days.
There are other, more significant consequences. Because Microsoft 365 has no native backup solution, if a malicious email slips through your spam filter, accidentally opening it could result in losing all your emails.
With cloud-hosted exchange services, you can fully restore emails up to 45 days afterwards and recover deleted items up to 150 days later.
With the introduction of GDPR, archiving your emails properly has also taken on a lot more importance. Exchange hosted services allow you to bundle your old emails into a single archive and keep them safe without slowing down your service.
In addition, most business emails offer limited space for archiving. Once the archive is full, you then must start deleting emails to free up space. By opting for a hosted exchange email server, you can access unlimited, indefinite archiving, meaning there is no need to choose what to keep and what to lose.
Finally, most cloud email providers will only allow email retention of up to two years, which is completely inadequate for compliance in many industries. With exchange hosting services, however, you can retain emails for up to 30 years where necessary.
5. More flexible and responsive
The good thing about subscribing to Microsoft 365 is you get automatic security updates. But you are also obligated to accept automatic feature updates or product upgrades. That all sounds wonderful if you have not been relying on a tool that suddenly changes or disappears.
With a hosted exchange you are in complete control of what gets updated and when. You can also have access to full UK-based support if something breaks in your business. In addition, Microsoft 365 offers you a mailbox of around 50 Gb and limited options for aliases such as invoices@BUSINESSNAME.com or accounting@BUSINESSNAME.com.
Instead, you can double your mailbox size to 100 Gb and use unlimited email aliases – useful if Jeff from accounting also does your marketing, recruitment, and credit control.
6. Better value
Following on nicely in the flexibility stakes, one of the key strengths of exchange hosting services is that they only require a month-to-month commitment.
If you contrast that with Microsoft 365, a default option is a year-long contract at a minimum. If you dig deeper, however, you will find that Microsoft does also offer a monthly 365 option, albeit at a slightly higher price.
Regardless, you will find that a cloud-hosted exchange is much more cost-effective than Microsoft’s 365 Business Premium. Furthermore, it can provide your business with even greater functionality, security, and control.
Talk to an exchange hosting services specialist
SMEs do not usually start life by using exchange hosting services for their emails. They realise that they are missing something. Growing organically usually involves using what’s convenient until suddenly it’s not. That’s true for everything from your computer systems to your accounting software and your emails.
To learn more about how you can make the most of cloud services to support, enhance or protect your IT infrastructure, contact us for a free trial or demonstration.