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What to look for in a cloud provider of Microsoft Exchange

Here are five key things to consider when looking for an Exchange Server host

microsoft-exchangeMicrosoft Exchange provides a rich feature set for email, which has made it a popular option among schools and colleges. And the latest version, Exchange 2013, is a more robust offering than its predecessor, delivering many improvements for schools. These include:

  • Better availability. Exchange 2013 offers higher availability and is more fault-tolerant than previous versions.
  • Greater transparency. Servers are now self-monitoring and work in teams to ensure high availability. When a server detects a problem that could affect the user experience, it transparently switches users to another database.
  • Increased speed. Exchange 2013 provides users with significantly faster speed than Exchange 2010.
  • Windows 8 interface. Microsoft’s Windows 8 interface simplifies navigation on mobile devices.
  • Improved support for mobility. The Outlook Web App has been modified for mobility and will adapt to the user’s screen, whether it’s an iPad, iPhone, another tablet, PC, or laptop.

That said, some educational institutions face challenges in setting up their own Exchange Server. It can be costly and labor-intensive to do this, and using the advanced features of Exchange 2013 requires hardware and training that aren’t financially feasible for some schools.

To overcome these roadblocks, an increasing number of schools and colleges are making the switch to Exchange Server hosting. A dedicated, remotely hosted Exchange Server enables schools to save money on administration and the total cost of ownership, while also redeploying IT staff for other projects and initiatives.

Outsourcing your messaging needs to a virtual Exchange Server can also provide you with additional services. Hosted Exchange services typically include security, antivirus, and anti-spam features. And schools usually can add even more functionality, as needed—such as email archiving, mobile device support, migration assistance, and more.

While there are good reasons to consider moving to Exchange Server hosting, it’s important to select a provider with care. Because most schools and colleges rely on email as a lifeline, a strategic means of communication, due diligence is a must when selecting a cloud service provider (CSP) for Exchange Server hosting.

Here are five things to look for in a CSP for hosting Exchange Server.

• Make sure your provider offers the latest version of Exchange.

• Make sure the CSP offers the most secure infrastructure available, provides high availability and uptime written into the service level agreement, and adheres to the industry’s strictest regulations for security and compliance.

(Next page: Three more requirements in a cloud service provider for Exchange Server hosting)

• The CSP should provide Outlook Web Access (OWA), which works on all major web browsers and gives users the ability to access their email online from anywhere.

• The CSP should offer support for both Outlook (for PC) and Entourage (for Mac) and for most common mobile devices. This is an especially important consideration for schools that have embraced the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. If employees and students are accessing Exchange Server from their Macs, iPads, and iPhones, the CSP must offer Mac support—even if the school itself has a PC-based infrastructure.

• Without exception, the CSP must provide dedicated support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Exchange Server hosting not only can facilitate improved email services—it also can deliver peace of mind. And that’s something every educational institution can use.

Adam Stern is founder and CEO of Infinitely Virtual ( in Los Angeles. On Twitter, @iv_cloudhosting.

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