Web & communication software

Save With an Online Exchange Server

Get through lean times by watching your business expenses like a dieter tracking calories. Is the cost of your ISP bandwidth and IT support worth hosting your own Exchange Server? Many businesses can save money with an offsite, hosted Exchange Server.

Self-hosting, up-front fees sting the hardest. Let's first figure you'd buy Small Business Server Standard for about $1,000 and a middle-weight server for about $1,500. That'd get you support for five users at an initial cost of about $2,500. Additional user licenses run $77 each. So for a business of about 20, you'd pay more than $3,500 to get started, and you'd likely pay more for help from an IT consultant.

A hosted Exchange Server eliminates these initial costs and ongoing IT maintenance fees. In this situation, hardware, software, and user licenses are billed monthly. Depending on the host and service, expect to pay about $10 a month per user.

Based on this rough 20-person business example, you'd be even with the up-front, $3,500 cost of self-hosting after about 18 months. But that still doesn't factor in your specific, ongoing ISP and IT bills, which could double this figure. And you'll eventually have to pay for hardware and software upgrades, too.

A hosted Exchange Server makes even more sense when you further scrutinize employee needs. Does everyone need the full features of an Exchange account, or can some employees get by with a simpler POP setup?

Hostway, for example, offers mixed email protocols. You pay only for the needed Exchange Server accounts, such as for a smartphone-connected frequent traveller. A receptionist might be fine without Exchange features and costs. This mix-and-match approach even maintains a single domain name.

Larger businesses will still benefit from the control of hosting Exchange Server onsite. Businesses with critical security concerns will need to host their own servers, even though an offsite host typically promises the same protection. But medium and small business might not need that power and expense. In general, watch for ways to move your tech infrastructure offsite; these steps typically save money.

Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor who is launching his next small business while juggling current work.

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