Exchange Insights: What s your next move? Authored by: J. Peter Bruzzese, (Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP) In association with:

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1 Exchange Insights: What s your next move? Microsoft Exchange is the clear market leader for . The ever-increasing popularity of the cloud and introduction of Microsoft Office 365 is causing a much activity in the space. Exchange administrators have reached a bit of an impasse as they consider which route to follow; 100 percent cloud, on premise, hosted or hybrid. It is not easy and every option has pros and cons. This paper aims to detail the options available as well as the areas for consideration. Authored by:, (Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP) In association with:

2 With four Exchange options, do you stay on-premise, try a hosted platform, go Office 365, or go hybrid? Best practice enterprise-grade environments take into consideration, and design into their deployment, the following architectural pieces: Exchange 2013 On-Premise Office Security and Encryption: Greater electronic privacy, flexible encryption, enhanced authentication options, and risk mitigation - Content Checking/Filtering: Anti-spam/malware solutions, phishing attacks, and so on Hybrid Approach Hosted Exchange Data Loss/Leak Prevention (Protection): Accidental employee negligence deterrents and malicious insider security threat assistance - High Availability/Continuity: Ability to withstand database/ disk/server/site/organization failures to varying degrees to ensure continued mission critical messaging Virtual Private Server OR Dedicated Server - Compliant Data Storage/Archiving: Enterprise-grade archiving that meets legal standards, provides ediscovery and long-term retention - Virtualization: Energy cost reduction and improved centralized management through on- and off-prem virtualized datacenters Exchange administrators and IT decision makers have reached a bit of an impasse. As they look at the existing bevy of best practice Exchange solutions available and they compare them to their existing environment, they know that to truly meet modern enterprise-grade specifications they will either have to dramatically alter their current infrastructure, place the infrastructure in the hands of a hosted vendor or switch to a cloud-based solution. The stress and cost of that decision is why many feel somewhat paralyzed to make a move. But the time has arrived where too many shops are going to have to push forward because they are obligated to provide the modern quality to be expected in enterprise-grade messaging. Logically, the legacy versions of Exchange do not provide the same capabilities we have come to see and expect in modern Exchange. Taking into consideration a sub-set of those elements, consider an organization that is running Exchange 2003 and/or 2007 on physical systems. With 2003 we re looking at a decade behind modern Exchange features that improve performance, security, allow for greater availability, virtualization support and more. The lack of modern security (anti-malware) or data loss/leak prevention and regulatory compliance features is probably made up for with a variety of third-party solutions. Any Exchange admin worth his salt would be looking at ways to push forward to provide better for his organization. The question is how? Do you seek out convergence-based hardware and establish private cloud on-premise infrastructure with Exchange 2013 at the heart? Or is that so far out of reach (and budget) that you have to consider a subscription based approach with a hosted solution or through Office 365? So many options are again, paralyzing. Let s clear it up a bit. 2

3 At a Crossroads It s not always easy to make the right choices with regard to your messaging environment. A few years back the options were limited, however today you can choose a variety of ways to implement Exchange. There is still the legacy option to stay on-premise. Hosted Exchange has existed in various forms for a while, whether with a dedicated virtual server or a basic multi-tenant hosted solution that you tap into with propriety tools to manage end-users. Microsoft s Exchange Online (part of Office 365) is a cost-effective way to subscribe your messaging. And a hybrid approach that combines parts of these elements is where many folks are finding their comfort level and trying new things. Another consideration is that Exchange development, especially in the cloud, moves quite rapidly. Company deployment moves slowly by comparison. Even with a three-year upgrade cycles, Exchange is still ahead of most on-prem installations. The vast array of choices and a great deal of marketing hype has led to confusion. So, perhaps you are looking at your legacy Exchange 2003 environment and you aren t sure what to do next? Or perhaps you have a new business you are looking to get up and running? Every scenario brings with it a host of decisions. The goal of this document is to help you see the pros and cons of the choices before you. On-Premise Exchange Sometimes it s simply easier to stick with what you know and what makes you comfortable. Right? Well, that truly does depend on your needs. It s true; keeping Exchange on-premise will allow you to have direct oversight and provide you with full control over your messaging environment. It will also allow for the greatest level of customization and provide the benefit of on-site operational speed. Those are the positives (the pros) and in some environments (perhaps medical, governmental, financial) those needs are so strong that the discussion has no other place to go but here. The negatives (cons) for organizations that do have some room to try alternative approaches include the weight of continuing to worry about the hardware needed, especially if migrating off legacy systems and possibly looking into modern equipment or newer virtualization options compared to your existing environment. On-premise also carries the concern over disaster recovery, availability and single points of failure. Hosted Platforms (Past, Present and Future) Hosted platforms come in all shapes and sizes. You may go with a provider who simply puts you on a multi-tenant Exchange deployment that they maintain and you are given some proprietary tools to add/remove users, set basic configuration options and leave the rest to the provider. In times past this was just what smaller businesses needed. No stress Exchange, so the end-users get the benefits of using Outlook and having it appear as if they have an inhouse Exchange server without the stress of it on IT. A much better option than simple POP3 mailbox accounts which didn t offer end-users the Outlook features. However, with modern solutions like Office 365 and the price points being comparable it may be that the days of third-party hosted Exchange providers of this sort (those living in the past) are over. For starters, legacy-focused Exchange providers cannot touch the price of Office 365. Note: Some have decided to abandon Microsoft and go the route of Google Apps, which may have seemed to be a true contender pre-office 365. Fast forward to today and we see the pendulum has swung back in Microsoft s favor with Office 365. That s not to say there is no future for a modern hosted Exchange provider. We ll discuss Office 365 in a moment, but keep in mind O365 allows for a variety of plans with somewhat of a one size fits all mentality that just may not meet everyone s requirements. In those cases you don t necessarily have to go back to an on-prem only option. If a hosted platform is what you prefer than you have to look for one that isn t living in the past and continuing to offer simple (tired) hosted solutions. There are some who have evolved or are currently evolving to provide enterprise grade service and features that can differentiate their offering from Office 365 (at a reasonable or comparable price tag). Do your homework and compare your options. Now, what about dedicated virtual server supported Exchange? This is your middle ground, perhaps, between going cloud and staying on-premise. Certainly this is a valid deployment of Exchange where you remove the concern of hardware and availability, yet maintain full control over your Exchange Servers and can configure them as if onpremise. Some of the concerns here include operational speed, which will vary depending on the quality and speed of your connection to the provider. You are also completely out of the loop with regard to the quality of hardware your Exchange mailboxes are running, which may not be a big concern for you so long as availability is provided. 3

4 Office 365 If you have decided to go all-in with Office 365 (or more specifically in this case, Exchange Online) you will find that you have certainly traded away many headaches that Exchange veterans carry the scars of battles past over (for example, restoring data from backups) but may find new ones to be concerned with. It s true, on the pro side you have guaranteed availability, no single point of failure, and no hardware costs. These benefits have many new shops going straight to Office 365 rather than sinking start-up capital into hardware. Smaller organizations are seeing the value in this direction as well, as are larger enterprise businesses depending on the business type. Additional benefits include upgrades and patches being handled automatically, along with disaster recovery and more. On the negative side, there is a lack of control. Exchange admins who are used to connecting to their Exchange organization and seeing the servers and databases will note that this is no longer an option. And when Office 365 goes down (the Exchange side to it at least) and you lose connectivity, you have no way to intervene other than to wait. And it does go down. It s important to mention that just because you go to the cloud, doesn t mean you can sit back and put your feet up. The Exchange admin won t all of a sudden be redundant by any means. If anything they ll need to do an equal amount (or possibly more) work to keep Office 365 in check, than an on-premise Exchange admin, in spite of the hardware and software maintenance being taken off their plate. This may be somewhat comforting to your Exchange admins who are worried that moving to Office 365 is going to cost you your job. There will still be plenty of work to be done, especially at the outset. Note: To view the list of Exchange Online Limits you can go here: library/exchange-online-limits.aspx The Hybrid Approach A hybrid approach may be your first steps toward a full migration to Office 365 or you might consider it a long-term solution for your particular organizational needs. Some call it the best of both worlds. Your organization maintains control on-premise and can keep mailboxes in-house that are sensitive in nature, while allowing Office 365 to handle temp worker mailboxes or less crucial mailboxes. Some of the positive aspects of the hybrid model include the fact that although some users have mailboxes on-prem and others in Exchange Online, they can find each other in the global address list (GAL), and they can share free/busy calendar data. Administrators can use the same Exchange Admin Center tool to manage both environments and can easily move mailboxes back and forth from the cloud to the on-premise environments. There are some negative considerations that may impede your ability to pursue a hybrid approach. For example cross-premise permission scenarios are not supported, nor are multi-forest scenarios where your organization has multiple forests for logon or resource segmentation. Quite frankly, one of the biggest negatives for an admin is the configuration side. Although considerably easier with Exchange 2013 and Office 365, the process itself requires a good deal of prep time just to map out the process. Your business location may also impede any form of cloudbased solution. Suburban and urban businesses may have solid connectivity but rural locations may make the cloud a bandwidth-prohibitive solution for them. Regulatory compliance requirements may also impede your ability to move to a cloud-based solution. Another negative is the imposed limitations of Office 365 depending on the plan you choose. Microsoft has a list of Exchange Online Limits that show mailbox storage limits, message limits, retention limits and more. And you cannot modify most of these limits, whereas with an on-premise Exchange those limits are non-existent. 4

5 Narrowing Down Your Options No doubt by this point you can narrow down your options with regard to your environment and your needs. Keep in mind, every option has pros and cons attached. Once you eliminate those options that will not suit your needs and narrow it down to those that might, you will need to do a feature comparison, know what you gain and lose with each option and do a cost analysis. There are always hidden costs. Some folks think the comparison between all of these options comes down to a comparison of hardware/software costs on-premise and hosted or cloud-based monthly subscription fees. It s not quite that simple. If you focus solely on raw, face value costs you may lose focus on the bigger picture, namely your TCO (total cost of ownership.) You need to consider much more than you think when comparing options. Consider your own in-house electricity costs per server (which may help you move faster to virtualized servers on all fronts, not just Exchange). Consider the cost of outbound bandwidth from your cloud provider. All of this, when combined, will help you make an educated decision with regard to your organization. Finding and Filling In the Gaps Your decision is made. You are going to? I m sure you d like to end the discussion here and assume that all those best practice enterprise-grade solutions are accounted for within your decision but unfortunately that isn t necessarily the case. Depending on the route you ve chosen you may have checked some off your list of must-haves. Most likely virtualization is accounted for and high availability is built into your new plan. If you are upgrading to an Exchange 2013 platform (or Exchange Online through Office 365) you have the latest Microsoft has to offer with regard to their provisions of security, content filtering, data loss prevention and archiving. But there are still gaps in the offering you have to be aware of and find ways to fill. What are gaps? Gaps are areas within solution categories that are not completely covered with the built-in offering. Gaps are holes that in many cases will be filled eventually by Microsoft or, in some cases, cannot be filled by Microsoft due to the nature of the gap. Third-party vendors, in an effort to remain in good standing with Microsoft will often refer to these gaps as areas to add value through their solution. Let s consider two specific gaps where a third-party solution (specifically Mimecast s unified management solution) can provide added value to your decision: - Continuity: It s true, Exchange 2013 has an amazing solution called database availability groups to provide greater levels of availability. Whether on-prem on cloud-based the DAG solution is an excellent and well-proven means to ensure your mission critical is never down. But the gap here is that there is always some single point of failure that needs to be considered. And some things are simply beyond our control (and Microsoft s). Unfortunately you cannot provide your own continuity. Only a third-party can provide that add-on value. - Archive: Microsoft s archive solution is designed as a personal archive and not an enterprise-grade regulatory compliant solution. If managed well, utilized with legal holds on all mailboxes and combined with other built-in compliance tools like retention tags you can certainly stretch the limits beyond what the built-in archive was intended for (a pst elimination tool). But a third-party solution with a keen focus on long-term retention of that date, fast ediscovery access to that data and an inability for end-users to access and remove that data would certainly provide add-on value. So, you can see that once you have made that decision to bring your organization up to par with modern best practice messaging there will still be some additional decisions needed to fill the gaps. Also worth mentioning that the gaps might not be recognized until you re six months into your relationship with your new provider. Once the honeymoon is over and the change requests are taking longer to be closed off, the lack of technology and functionality becomes sorely apparent. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Every option will have pros and cons, but knowing those in advance sure beats finding them out down the line. We hope this whitepaper has given you a bit to think about and hopefully it has helped you choose your next path. 5

6 Author s Bio (Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP) an Exchange MVP, is a co-founder and CIO of ClipTraining, an Exchange and SharePoint Instructor for Pluralsight, a well-known technical author for Que/Sams and others, a technical speaker for Techmentor, MEC, Connections, TechEd and the Enterprise Windows columnist for InfoWorld. In his spare time well, with all that let s be honest J. P. B. has no spare time. ;-) Follow him on About Mimecast Mimecast () delivers cloud-based management for Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office 365, including archiving, continuity and security. By unifying disparate and fragmented environments into one holistic solution that is always available from the cloud, Mimecast minimizes risk and reduces cost and complexity, while providing total end-to-end control of . Founded in the United Kingdom in 2003, Mimecast serves more than 8,000 customers and two million users worldwide and has offices in Europe, North America, Africa, Australia and the Channel Islands. P: E: 6

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