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Choosing between in-house and hosted email for your small or medium sized business

Across the world, 128.8 billion business email messages are sent and received each day. That figure accounts for 52% of all email volume and has grown 5% each year since 2015.

Even though it’s been around for a long time, businesses have not abandoned the tried and true electronic message as their primary method of communication; even in the midst of all the fancy new collaboration tools. Email is versatile, accessible, and allows organizations to maintain a record of all correspondence and therefore becoming their intellectual property.

Large enterprises have millions invested into sprawling data center environments that make purchasing infrastructure for their own self-managed email platform a no brainer, especially considering the scale at which they operate, managing thousands of users’ accounts. For small and medium-sized businesses, deciding between in-house and hosted options are not always so clear cut. Here we’ll examine the benefits and drawbacks of each.

In-house Email: Intensive Set Up for Greater Control and Optionality

For any small to medium-sized business that’s involved in an industry with stringent compliance standards, having your email servers on-prem provides you full control of the environment, so you can ensure you’re audit-ready. Even if you don’t have to worry about institutionalized compliance, security is likely top of mind. Without an in-house email server, you never have physical access to the servers and will never know who does.

Also, in the event of an outage, you don’t need to wait for a third party to remedy the situation; your people can attend to the issue posthaste. Even 10 minutes without email can have drastic operational and financial consequences for a small or medium company. Running your own Exchange 2016 servers allows for an array of architecture possibilities with added redundancy so you can avoid downtime completely.

You should also consider what happens if your ISP goes dark. If you’re using a hosted email platform, you can’t access your information at all without the internet. On the other hand, if you are in this situation with an in-house email server and your business becomes an island due to your ISP going down, your employees can still access information stored on the internal servers through the local network and still be productive. A business shouldn’t stop if the internet goes down!

In terms of cost, as long as you aren’t a company with fewer than two dozen people, the long-term total cost of ownership for hosting your email servers in-house is generally less than implementing a hosted solution. Throughout the equipment’s lifecycle, depreciation can also be accounted for and claimed for tax purposes to improve your bottom line. For some small businesses, these two cost advantages paired with a one time purchase versus a hosted solution with a monthly fee makes the most financial sense.

The primary driving factor behind choosing in-house over hosted alternatives is flexibility and customization. If you have a lot of mailboxes, aliases, and public email folders, in-house servers are likely your best bet – there are no mailbox limits when you manage your own platform.

Hosted Email: Little Overhead, Less Customization, Greater Security Risk

Hosted email offerings, such as Managed Office 365, are an ideal fit for many small to medium sized businesses. First, if a company does not have a data center, server room, or server closet with redundant power and connectivity, it may be best to pay a bit more to license services to a hosted provider’s data center. Also, if your business does not have an IT professional with the required acumen to manage an in-house email server, the cost of acquiring one may overwhelm the monthly price you will spend for hosted email.

There are several drawbacks though – there are mailbox limits and you have no control over the maintenance schedule. When you manage your email servers on-premise, planned outages are always on your schedule. It’s also important to note that hosted email providers tend to provide a 99.99% uptime SLA, which translates to about one cumulative hour of allowable outages.

In terms of security, it’s crucial to be cognizant of the fact that hosted email servers are likely multi-tenant. There could be hundreds of virtual instances owned by different companies on the same bare metal server. There’s always a risk that a privacy policy change could accidentally expose your virtual machine and your internal data to a third party. Although this is rare.

One of the benefits of a hosted service is that it’s always updated and typically comes with a spam filter and anti-virus software included. When you do it on your own, you must purchase them a la carte to be secure.

Plug and Play Email Servers: Seizing the Benefits of In-house Email With Ease

There are considerable security and customization benefits to keeping your business email in house. The complexity of setup, however, often deters companies from doing so. Luckily, there are plug and play email servers on the market that reduce the required skills and investment required to set up an in-house email platform.

Plug and play offerings preconfigured with Microsoft Exchange Server, enables small and medium businesses to quickly establish an in-house email platform. Exchange automates centralized backups and eases scheduling, contact management and calendars. Trusted, yet affordable commodity hardware, such as Dell’s Power Edge R720XD, serves the perfect foundation for a preconfigured email platform running Exchange.

Another plug and play option to look into the Synology Rackstation NAS systems preconfigured with Synology’s Mail Plus. This solution is ideal for small businesses that don’t need as many features offered by Microsoft Exchange but are looking for the security benefits of an in-house solution in a cost-effective fashion.

Aventis Systems sells customizable plug and play email servers preconfigured and ready for use with both Microsoft Exchange and Synology Mail Plus. This saves small and medium businesses the time and resources needed to implement a platform from scratch. We rapidly build and ship ready-to-use systems to customer specifications complete with mail licenses and a 3-year warranty.

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