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Best hosted Email/exchange platform for a small business?

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#1 Kushan

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 11:09

Hi Everyone,

 

I'm not really sure where the best place to ask for help on this is, so I'm defaulting to trusty neowin - because you guys haven't let me down before.

 

Essentially, the company I work for has been using a fairly basic, no-frills email service (IMAP and not much else) for donkeys years now and I'd like to move them onto something better, with things like shared calendars and all that. We're not quite big enough to warrant hosting our own exchange server or anything (Company has only about 20 people), so I'm looking towards things like Office 365, Google Apps and other hosted cloud services.

 

We are capable of hosting stuff ourselves, but I (And the boss) would much rather have someone else host it more for peace of mind, as I'm not really qualified to deal with it all (I have my day job, still!) and the company is just not quite ready to hire a full time IT Guy.

 

 

Anyway, as I don't really have a huge amount of experience with this side of things, I'm looking for some general advice on what others use. How is Office 365? How does it compare to Google Apps? Our current mail provider offers hosted "Zimbra" and this looks promising as well, very promising actually, but I am having trouble finding reasonable comparisons between Zimbra and Google Apps. Has anyone used both? Can anyone give any particularly outstanding reasons to use one, or not use one?

 

My gut instinct is to go for Google Apps, but this is mostly because I use and love Gmail myself (And the other google services). I am very much used to and like the Google ecosystem but if there's a clear benefit to using a different service, then I am all for pushing the company to whatever works best for them.

 

In terms of what we actually need, I think requirements are fairly basic. We need good email client support, particularly outlook (I think all of the above mentioned services have this covered). Ideally, a range of supported Android/iOS apps as well that can stay in sync with each other (again, I think they all support this one way or another - but if someone stands out, then by all means let me know). We also need to be able to have email aliases that get sent to multiple recipients within the company (such as info@xyz.com or support@xyz.com) - I don't actually know if this is a trivial thing that everyone supports or if it's something that say Google Apps can't do, any info on that would be good.

And, well, I guess anything that could potentially help a business work better? If there's some feature that someone has that makes things more efficient, then even better. I don't know enough about all this, I just know that things can be better.

 

Any info or recommendations (or horror stories) would be highly appreciated. Thanks, guys!



Best Answer InsaneNutter , 07 February 2014 - 11:49

Working for a fairly small company myself, who went from using Google Apps to using Office 365 with Exchange I can honestly say the two are vastly different. Exchange / Office 365 are in a totally different league to Google Apps.

 

If you use Exchange that integrates with Outlook perfectly, it will sync everything, including Email, Contacts, Calendar, Email rules and so on. You can easily access shared inbox’s e.g. info@companyname.com. See other peoples calendars, and so many other small things that just make you feel its so much more professional offering.

 

For £10 a month per user you get a licence for that user to use office on up to 5x devices, so their work PC, Laptop and even the home PC. 50gb Exchange Inbox, 25gb of storage on Sky Drive (One Drive now) access to Sharepoint, Lync and so on.

 

Basically the complete Microsoft package. It also integrates with your existing server running Server 2012 (or 2012 R2) really nicely.

I personally can’t rate it highly enough, especially for a small business. The upfront costs are small and you have the advantage of never having any massive upgrade costs, when the next version of office is out you can upgrade at no additional cost.

 

See the different plans here: http://office.micros...X102918419.aspx

 

By all means do your own research, however having used them both I recommend Office 365 / Exchange all the way.

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#2 rfirth

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 11:17

https://domains.live...gnupDomain.aspx



#3 OP Kushan

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 11:23

 

This appears to be a signup page for....something...could you elaborate more on what it is?



#4 InsaneNutter

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 11:49   Best Answer

Working for a fairly small company myself, who went from using Google Apps to using Office 365 with Exchange I can honestly say the two are vastly different. Exchange / Office 365 are in a totally different league to Google Apps.

 

If you use Exchange that integrates with Outlook perfectly, it will sync everything, including Email, Contacts, Calendar, Email rules and so on. You can easily access shared inbox’s e.g. info@companyname.com. See other peoples calendars, and so many other small things that just make you feel its so much more professional offering.

 

For £10 a month per user you get a licence for that user to use office on up to 5x devices, so their work PC, Laptop and even the home PC. 50gb Exchange Inbox, 25gb of storage on Sky Drive (One Drive now) access to Sharepoint, Lync and so on.

 

Basically the complete Microsoft package. It also integrates with your existing server running Server 2012 (or 2012 R2) really nicely.

I personally can’t rate it highly enough, especially for a small business. The upfront costs are small and you have the advantage of never having any massive upgrade costs, when the next version of office is out you can upgrade at no additional cost.

 

See the different plans here: http://office.micros...X102918419.aspx

 

By all means do your own research, however having used them both I recommend Office 365 / Exchange all the way.



#5 jamieakers

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:39

Office 365 all the way.  A large number of customers where I work use this, particularly small businesses, and we're finding more and more of them moving there.  Totally agree with every point +InsaneNutter makes.  It's pricing model and services make sense for both IT and business.



#6 Enron

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:54

Get Office 365.



#7 Roger H.

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 14:46

Office 365 - i've setup few small companies so far that want Exchange but without handling servers and all that.

 

I've setup a few Exchange Online only setups with like 8 users which is $32/month. Even a small mom & pop business should be able to afford that :p



#8 +Bryan R.

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 14:57

Office 365. Don't mess with Google Apps even if it's free or cheap these days. You can get just Hosted Exchange for $4/mailbox/month. And didn't Google get rid of ActiveSync or some ridiculousness? 



#9 ShadowMajestic

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 15:11

Microsoft Live Domains. You can use it as a free email service for your very own Domain. Up to 100 email addresses are free. Exchange however, isn't included in the free version. But it does use EAS, so it has the features of Exchange anyways.

Office 365 can do this email domain hosting too. If you plan to use Office, go with that.

This appears to be a signup page for....something...could you elaborate more on what it is?



#10 episode

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 15:18

I just want to point out that at 20 users x $5 a month per user, you're going to get into the territory where buying & maintaining your own server would be much cheaper very quickly. 



#11 froggyliver

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 15:26

Office 365 is a great solution, but I do wish their technical support group was better when there are problems. It is not uncommon for them to transfer you several times and then ask if they can call you back. We have several customers on Office 365 and overall it is great. If you want better support though (and pay a bit more) go with Intermedia.



#12 +Bryan R.

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 15:27

I just want to point out that at 20 users x $5 a month per user, you're going to get into the territory where buying & maintaining your own server would be much cheaper very quickly. 

It depends. If you have the hardware, sure. Exchange costs less than a thousand these days, right? So after a year, you may make it back. But small businesses are notorious for holding onto hardware and when upgrading to Exchange 2013 means upgrading their whole server, the cloud looks real friendly. Especially if you go with Office 365 plans that include Office.



#13 InsaneNutter

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 15:38

Microsoft Live Domains. You can use it as a free email service for your very own Domain. Up to 100 email addresses are free. Exchange however, isn't included in the free version. But it does use EAS, so it has the features of Exchange anyways.

Office 365 can do this email domain hosting too. If you plan to use Office, go with that.

 

From a management point of view you have very little control however, no way to link it with a users active directory account and the only the options on the web you get are to suspend mail and delete user. Neither are any good if the user forgets the password, or leaves the company and you want to access something associated with that account.

 

For personal use though i think Windows Live Domains is fantastic, i use it on my own domain and couldn't really ask for any more, especially for free.



#14 Roger H.

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 15:43

If you not sure, create a quick test account and see how that works for you. That's how i got people to make up their mind to take it. Setup stuff on the trial and then connect boss user to it and he/she'll love it so much that he/she'll sign up before the trial is even over :p.



#15 duddit2

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 15:44

Your going to need an AD infrastructure, so you'd want a DC operating on its own and exchange running on its own, you could get a beefy server and run them as Virtual machines in Hyper-v. Then you'd need static IP address and setup rDNS records, manage your domains DNS (MX, SPF, autodiscover etc.) oh and buy a SAN SSL Certificate.

 

Then there is managing all this, which isn't a major deal IF you already are using AD, if not then look at how much the costs change:

 

New beefy server

server 2012r2

Hyper-v setup

2 x virtual servers

New AD

New Exchange

CALS for server and exchange

Managing the lot.

 

Now even after all this you have the basic setup of exchange, no failover and we've not looked at backups yet.

 

It takes quite a bit before small companies would benefit from on site rather than cloud for exchange, especially if they are not using AD to start with.

I just want to point out that at 20 users x $5 a month per user, you're going to get into the territory where buying & maintaining your own server would be much cheaper very quickly.