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I attended a tech swap recently on Hosted Exchange where we discussed the pros and cons of moving to a hosted system and what to look for in a vendor. We also talked about what is involved in implementation and migration.

We came up with a list of questions that we would ask a potential vendor. Many of these are basic administration and storage questions but they need to be addressed and should be included in any contract.
What are the size limitations
What is the maximum size for attachments
What are the Quotas on Mailbox sizes
Number of users
How does the vendor address aliases speakers@company.com
Shared calendars
Availability
24 7 availability
Remote access – OWA
Performance
Integration with other services -Third party software and devices support
Blackberry or other PDA’s
SharePoint
Live Meeting
SQL
IM
Unified messaging
Administration – ease
Archiving/Retention
Spam Filters, Virus/Malware
Integration
Authenticate

The cons we considered with Hosted Exchange were:
Lack of control and privacy
Cost of external hosting Expense
Uptime – when are patches scheduled?
How do you make sure there is good helpdesk support?
Internet Access – bandwidth onsite
List of users – updating user info
Scale

The benefits of Hosted Exchange were
Reliability
Data centers have the power systems and backup in place for uptime that a small company cannot replicate in an office building
Security
Data centers are secured with guards and key card for entry. Servers in an office building can be compromised and are difficult to secure since many of the staff need access for emergencies.
Expertise available
The vendor can stay up to date on the software and hardware which saves time for internal staff to work on other projects
Features/Functionality
Greater than on site due to the hardware and software licensing costs
Disaster Recovery
Data centers have multiple redundancies built in with generators and special power supplies.
Data Speed
Most Data centers have multiple carriers for data vs an office building for anywhere access. They have the ability to switch to other carriers quickly if an outage occurs.
Agility
You can add people without having to change hardware or software – when you purchase hardware you have a major expense that you must depreciate and hold even though it may be outdated and newer equipment is available
Fixed cost
Fixed expense per user easier to budget and control expense
E-discovery/archiving

We talked about the Service Levels and what you should look for in a hosted system
Shared vs. Dedicated
Blended Solutions – can you have some servers on site and some hosted?
Vendor
Look at ratio, techs to mailboxes
Where are their facilities?
Do they have a backup facility?
References – Try to get the last three installs that the vendor did
Infrastructure
Bandwidth charges?
Quota charges?
Backups
SLAs – service level agreement – have a lawyer check all contracts before you sign
Response time
Escalation Procedures
Last time they tested

What is involved in the Implementation?
What’s their plan for implementation?
How will the integration work?
Are they relying on PSTs? This is not a reliable method to migrate exchange
How long to complete?
Active Directory integration
Aliases
Training

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