Cloud E-mail Vs On-Premise E-mail Servers

The term “Cloud Computing” only really hit the business world a couple of years ago and it’s fair to say that media hype has been far in excess of the actual adoption rates! Why is this? Well the technology maturity, infrastructure and pricing were not quite there in my opinion. However this year Microsoft slashed the price of their Cloud email system, called Office 365, to very reasonable rates that make it a real contender as an on-premise email server. There are prices and plans to suit most companies, see here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/office365/compare-plans.aspx

This year, SystemWise has been training on Office 365 and have also attended a Microsoft course on the subject so that we can confidently sell and support the product. So far we’ve been impressed.

Cloud based email systems are not a perfect fit for all companies though and we’ll see a split of companies using cloud based email systems and on-premise email servers.

Anyway, this blog post is really just to highlight a couple of pros and cons experienced by SystemWise in the last week.

We recently took on a new client who had a requirement to move away from their ISP’s POP email system. The cost involved of installing an on-premise email server was too great for a five user network so Microsoft’s Office 365 product was chosen.

For just over £10 ex VAT per month, the client got all the functionality they required. The setup of the mailboxes was straightforward but the client had requirements to have a shared mailbox, share calendars, disable webmail, disable smartphone integration and a few other bits and pieces. Now these changes would have taken only a few minutes if the client had an on-premise email server, a few mouse clicks and away we go. However, in Office 365, the administration is mostly done using a command shell (typing code). This is a step back into the dark ages really. The whole point of graphical user interfaces (GUI) was to get away from command line interfaces and make administration simpler on a day to day basis.

Microsoft doesn’t really have a manual or guide on the most common commands so Google is your best bet at learning. So what should have taken only five or ten minutes at most, turned into a three hour research and experimentation exercise. As it stands, Office 365 administration is not something that a non-IT pro can easily do. We have started to build a library of commands here so that in future, any non-simple changes should take considerably less time.


On the flip side…….

Another one of our clients has an on-premise email server which affords them ultimate flexibility in terms of configuring the email system to their requirements. During some routine maintenance, they experienced some downtime that wouldn’t have happened were they “in the cloud”!

A routine anti virus and anti spam upgrade on the email server, which had worked perfectly at four other clients, failed. This led to the server not being able to send or receive emails. The anti virus protection was then disabled which allowed emails to flow but they were not being scanned for viruses or spam. Not ideal!

The fix involved a few calls to the anti virus vendor, several reboots and taking down the email system for a good couple of hours. Total disruption was about four hours and fortunately there was no serious harm. Had this particular client been using Microsoft Office 365 for their email then the anti virus/anti spam upgrade wouldn’t have been necessary. With Office 365 it is Microsoft’s responsibility to ensure that the security systems are up to date.


So what does this tell us…… there are pros and cons to both types of systems and having a good IT support company to assist in times of need is essential.

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