What is Microsoft Exchange Server?

What is Microsoft Exchange Server?

Microsoft Exchange Server is a mail and calendaring server developed by Microsoft which runs exclusively on Windows Operating System. It enables digital messaging and email services in an enterprise IT environment. The emails received first reach the Exchange Server, after which they are routed to the destination client.

Apart from email services, Microsoft Exchange also provides other functionalities like Contacts Management, Task Management and Calendar. It can also be hosted as a cloud service – deployed and entirely accessible from the internet.

Microsoft Exchange Server is collaborative software from Microsoft that is comprised of an email server, email client, and several group ware applications. The Microsoft Exchange line is prevalent in large corporations and is frequently used in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook.

Exchange Server Services at Global Era Infotech enables a company’s users to securely access communications like e-mail messages, voice mail, instant messaging and SMS text messages from their desktops, Web browsers or mobile devices (Android and iOS).

The latest release of Exchange Server, Microsoft Exchange Server 2016, made its debut on October 1, 2015. Exchange Server 2016 features Microsoft’s Software-plus-Services strategy at its core, which gives companies the opportunity to choose from a combination of on-premises, hosted, cloud-based, and hybrid solutions.

Benefits of using Microsoft Exchange Services.

  • Microsoft Exchange provides enhanced security features which protects the users from threats like viruses, hackers and spam, leaving the user data less vulnerable on the server. It also ensures that email confidentiality is not compromised by a third party outside source.
  • It is easy to set-up and optimize, with full message sync options and multiple device support.
  • It provides intuitive touch enabled inbox experience on almost every cellular device, web browsers as well as Microsoft enabled computer devices.
  • As the professional networks of people are widespread, Exchange enables users to bring in the contacts form all the networks to bring them together in one place. Duplication and multiple contact cards of a single person are also managed by Exchange.
  • Exchange helps decrease the amount of time spent in maintaining messaging and emailing systems with powerful managerial capabilities and role-based access control which enables users to accomplish specific tasks without requiring the full administrative rights of the software.
  • It also provides provisions and tools to move to cloud on the terms of the client, providing them with a seamless experience. The cloud remains in the control of the client and can be optimized and customized according to his needs.

Traits of a good Exchange Services provider

  • A company should provide flexible configuration and customization options as the needs of the client may vary according to the customer response and space requirements.
  • The company should provide superior filtering and retention policies.
  • The service provider must provide high security and confidentiality of the client’s mails and messages, and must have provisions to prevent the mailing system being attacked by hackers, viruses or spammers.
  • A company should provide long term technical support and customer assistance on demand.
  • The company’s portfolio should reflect its work with various clients.
  • Reviewing customer satisfaction and ratings is also key to choosing the most appropriate company for your email exchange solutions.

Defining requirements

As with any major IT project, advance planning is critical to ensuring a successful email implementation or migration. Businesses must work with relevant stakeholders to understand functionality, infrastructure, security, integration and reliability requirements — among many other requirements.

Evaluating vendors

Businesses need to understand the various vendors on the market, as well as which features to prioritize. For example, most companies will need business-class support and SLAs. Once they narrow down their options, it’s important to ask a critical set of questions of each choice, such as whether the vendor has proven they can scale to meet their needs, whether their archiving solutions are easy to manage, etc.

Preparing to migrate

The actual implementation and/or migration process varies widely depending on the type of email solution and the capabilities of the chosen vendor. Based on the information gathered during the requirements process, businesses will need to consider a range of factors such as IT staff training, end user training and setting a realistic migration timetable.

What are your key email requirements?

It’s hard to compare email service providers unless you have some idea of what you need. Get started by thinking about:

  • How many email addresses you require. Usually you'll want one for each person in your business, plus any generic addresses for sales enquiries, support and so on.
  • How your business is likely to grow. If you plan to take on lots of staff in the next few months, ensure your email service provider makes it easy to add extra accounts.
  • What software and devices you use. If you already have a preferred email client (such as Microsoft Outlook), do you want to keep using it? What mobile devices do employees use?

Once you have some idea of these requirements, you can begin evaluating email service providers.

Support from your email service provider

Because email is usually a business-critical service, it’s important to check what support your email service provider can offer.

If most of your emails are sent and received during business hours then round-the-clock support may not be crucial. However, do look for a service level agreement that sets out support response times and acceptable levels of service availability.

Bargain basement email service providers may cut corners where support is concerned.

Email software and technology

If your business already has an email system in place, you’ll need to make sure you can migrate to the new email service provider. This can involve some downtime, so make sure you’re confident in the provider’s abilities.

Migration aside, your business email provider may offer services based on these technologies:

  • POP3 (post office protocol 3). With POP3, your email messages are downloaded to your device and then deleted from the central email server. This generally restricts each person to using one particular computer for their email.
  • IMAP (internet message access protocol). IMAP keeps messages on a central server, along with information about whether each message has been read or replied to. This means you can log in from any computer and see your entire inbox. IMAP has been around for years and you'll find it offered by many entry-level email packages.
  • Microsoft Exchange. This is Microsoft's own email technology. It stores messages centrally but also offers extra functions, such as shared calendars and contact lists. It’s often called Hosted Exchange or Office 365 when offered by email service providers.
  • Webmail or HTTP. Webmail services offer the ability to send and receive email via a web browser or traditional email client. Many free email services - including Yahoo Mail and Google Mail - are webmail. Most email service providers offer webmail as an additional way to access messages when you're not on your own computer.

If you’re looking to access your email from more than one location, or want to use mobile devices to send and receive email, choose an email service provider that offers IMAP or Exchange. These systems offer much more flexibility than POP3.

Also think about whether your company needs new email software. Some email packages include professional software – most often Microsoft Outlook – as part of the package.

Mobile email access

Even the most basic email service providers usually make it easy to send and receive email from mobile devices such as smart phones. POP3, IMAP and Exchange accounts are all supported by most mobile devices.

However, it’s wise to check that your email service provider supports the mobile devices used by people within your business. Make sure clear instructions are available to get everything working.

Mailbox size and archiving

Most email service providers place a limit on the size of each mailbox in your business. This dictates how many messages you can keep stored at any one time.

If you send and receive lots of emails or work with large email attachments, it’s surprising how quickly your inbox can fill up. Make sure your provider offers a reasonable amount of storage – 5GB (gigabytes) is a good minimum.

Some providers also offer an archiving service, allowing you to make room in your mailbox by storing older messages separately. This saves you having to arrange and archive old email yourself.

Security and backups

As email is a critical communications channel, ask any potential email service provider how they protect and backup your data. Make sure their email servers have redundancy built in, and check they back your data up to more than one location.

Many providers also offer protection against spam, ransom ware and viruses. This gives you an extra line of defense, blocking suspect emails before they get close to your business.

Finding your ideal email service provider

Because email is so important to your business, it’s wise to seek expert advice to ensure your choice of email service provider fits your requirements. If you work regularly with an IT supplier or support company, their input can be valuable.

How to Choose a Provider and Type of Email

As you start researching email hosting providers, here are a few questions to ask yourself and your team to help you narrow down options that will work for you now and long-term.

  • How big is your business? How many users do you have, how much email data do you currently store, can any of it be archived before you move to a hosted email service? Do you want to migrate your current data to the new provider when you switch over?
  • What features does your team need? Data protection, special security requirements, an exchange server, shared calendars, and more should be considered when comparing different provide options.
  • What is your budget? You get what you pay for. For a small business, a free service may make sense, but for most medium to large businesses, looking professional options may be a better route to go.
  • What software are potential providers using? Make sure any provider you choose is utilizing up to date email software.
  • How difficult is it to get started? Do they offer migration services; will there be an interruption in service while you’re getting set up initially?
  • Will there be a charge for migration or any other initial fee besides the monthly/yearly fee for the email? Do they charge per mailbox or per account?
  • How do you want to set up your email? Will your team access email strictly from a website (web-based email), or will they access it from an application on their computers (lMAP or POP3) or from a mobile application? Do they require all emails sent and received calendars, and tasks to be synced across all devices (Email Exchange)? Ensure as you choose a provider you are thinking about accessibility and how to best support your team.
  • Do you want to automatically archive your email? If so, does the provider offer archive services?

By going with hosted email service, you do not need to personally purchase hardware, and you do not need to be a technical genius or security expert to implement tools that support your team and your business operations.

Redundancies and security are built in to evolve as the technology evolves, because the company you choose to host your email is in the BUSINESS of email solutions. As you start your search for the right provider, assess your business’ needs and where you want to be in the future to decide which type of service will best fit you and your business.