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Business Email: M365’s Exchange Online vs. Exchange

Microsoft is a dominant player in the business email market. For most businesses, the question isn’t whether to use Microsoft email solutions, but rather “which one?” While Microsoft’s Exchange server solution has been the go-to option for years, the rise of cloud-based solutions has given businesses a more flexible and cost-effective alternative: Exchange Online through Microsoft 365. 


The Difference between cloud (M365’s Exchange Online) and premise (Exchange) 

Exchange Online and Exchange are two business email solutions offered by Microsoft. Exchange Online is a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution within the Microsoft 365 suite. In this subscription-based model, Microsoft owns, manages, and secures the infrastructure. 

In contrast, the premise-based solution, Exchange, requires someone to own and manage the server infrastructure that the licensing is installed on. Large enterprises may manage this in-house on their own servers. Smaller businesses often contract with a third party for email hosting services (such as CIO Solutions’ Hosted Exchange). In this case, the third party manages the solution on their own servers.  

Both solutions offer similar features but differ in one major area: who manages and secures the email infrastructure. 

Although the idea of having control over managing their own infrastructure may seem less risky and appeal to many businesses, shifting that responsibility back to the vendor can actually provide significant advantages. 

Benefits of Exchange Online 

With great control comes great responsibility. Managing Exchange servers requires both time and resources. It’s also limited to the capabilities of your business or IT provider and evolves at a slower pace. This can mean fluctuating costs, occasional downtime, and yes, even additional risks for your business.  

Alternatively, M365’s Exchange Online infrastructure is managed and secured by Microsoft. Having the vendor in control of these responsibilities means your business benefits from: 

  1. Consistent Maintenance

    Exchange Online provides built-in enterprise-level security features, high reliability, and regular maintenance, upgrades, and feature updates. This reduces the complexity and burden of maintenance for your business

  2. High Availability

    Exchange Online in M365 offers high availability and disaster recovery features. Microsoft guarantees the system’s uptime, ensuring that organizations have access to their email at all times (via the Internet). On the other hand, organizations that depend on Exchange servers may experience potential downtime and data loss in the event of a disaster

  3. Enhanced Security Features

    With Exchange Online, businesses benefit from a consistent and robust security framework. Exchange Online offers the latest security features and advancements, with Microsoft implementing advanced security measures and managing the infrastructure in accordance with industry regulations

  4. Quick Application of Security Patches

    A major advantage of Exchange Online is that Microsoft swiftly applies security patches when vulnerabilities are detected. This guarantees that your business stays ahead of the latest security threats, with the vendor efficiently and rapidly implementing patches to maintain the highest level of protection.

  5. Predictable Costs

    Exchange Online provides a cost-effective and predictable pricing model as a subscription-based solution. With monthly or annual subscription options, it’s bundled with the rest of the 365 suite and doesn’t have additional costs for managing the infrastructure or maintaining the system. By using Exchange Online, you can avoid unexpected costs such as hardware upgrades, infrastructure costs, or special projects that come with running your own Exchange environment.

  6. Scalability & Integration Capabilities

    Exchange Online plays a central role in the M365 suite. It serves as the foundation for the function and interconnectivity of the entire suite of productivity tools. Migrating email into Exchange Online is the first step for businesses looking to leverage Teams, SharePoint, and other tools in the M365 ecosystem. As businesses continue to embrace collaboration, connectivity, and flexibility, Exchange Online can be a key first step to setting up scalable productivity options in the future.

Considering your Options 

Microsoft 365’s Exchange Online offers several benefits over Exchange servers in terms of flexibility, cost-effectiveness, high availability, scalability, and enterprise-level security and disaster recovery features. As more and more organizations opt for cloud solutions for their ease of use and flexibility, it may be worthwhile to explore whether Exchange Online could be a good fit for your business. 

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