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Jan. 24, 2014

5 Underappreciated Things Hosted Exchange Can Do for Your Company

Microsoft Outlook remains the go-to email application for desktops, according to data from Campaign Monitor, with 20 percent of users choosing the Exchange-powered mail service.

This is no surprise; many companies have a long history with Microsoft and its email client. But it's worth taking a look at the power behind the throne. Here are five things you might not know about a Hosted Exchange deployment and what it can offer.

Exchange, Explained

Think of the Microsoft Exchange server as the brains behind any Outlook operation. Exchange 2013 (as well as 2010, 2007 and 2003) powers a host of services; Outlook is simply the most popular. According to PCMag.com, “Exchange Server supports global mailbox standards and can send to and receive mail from all POP3 and IMAP4 client programs. Exchange Server also supports Web-based access and smartphone access.” In other words, you need Exchange for Outlook to work, but email is just the tip of the iceberg.

Getting in on Outsourcing

You have two choices when it comes to a Microsoft Exchange server: Buy a license and host it on a local server stack; or outsource the server to a third-party provider, such as a web host. Exchange can be a complex product to manage and although it's possible to reduce this complexity by collapsing an entire deployment into a single server, that can lead to issues with security and reliability. As a result, companies often choose to outsource their Exchange server to a trusted provider, lessening the burden on internal resources.

CIO.com makes the case for performance: In the event a company's data center is compromised, hosted Exchange servers won't be affected. What's more, patches and upgrades to the mail server won't bog down local infrastructure. Meanwhile, a Toolbox.com article cites research from Gartner, which estimates that 80 percent of midsize businesses (300 employees or less) could save money with an outsourced email deployment.

Furthermore, data compliance has become an increasingly high priority for businesses, making email retention an essential part of any records-management strategy — and prohibitively expensive to do on-site. Even Microsoft has started (sort of) outsourcing itself with the new Outlook Web App (OWA). Instead of relying on a desktop client, companies can now choose to use OWA, which includes a simplified user interface and the ability to access email, even when the user is offline.

Five Alive

Outsourced or in-house, Exchange 2013 does more than Outlook suggests, including the following:

  • Data syncing with mobile devices using ActiveSync: This includes BlackBerrys, iPhones, Androids and Windows 7 devices.
  • Applications: Found in the Organization feature of the new Exchange Admin Center is an “Apps” tab, which lets you configure specialized applications for users. While co-workers can discover these apps independently, using the Apps tab lets you preconfigure profiles to include Bing Maps or LinkedIn, just to name a few.
  • Antimalware and antispam: Exchange 2013 includes malware detection, which can automatically react to suspicious messages and alert both the sender and the receiver. Spam detection, meanwhile, uses a multilayer process to guard against phishing and other threats.
  • Control over transport rules: This lets you take action on messages from specific IP address ranges or emails that include executable content. Clicking on the Mail Flow command under the Rules section of the Exchange Admin Center gives you access to the New Rule wizard. Here, you can create rules to block by email content, sender, recipient or attachment.
  • E-discovery tools: In the event of a legal challenge or an audit, Exchange's In-Place eDiscovery tool lets you perform discovery searches for relevant content in all mailboxes. In addition, you can use role-based access control to give non-IT personnel access to this tool without granting them admin-level control.

These hidden gems prove that Exchange is a powerful, flexible tool — and one that does far more than just find your mail.

[image: Peshkova/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]

ABOUT THIS CONTRIBUTOR
Freelance writer
Douglas Bonderud is a technology expert with a deep understanding of web hosting, cloud computing and data security.
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