Background and Client Challenge:

C&A conducted this analysis on behalf of clients who wished to implement hosted email services through a “Software as a Service” (SAAS) vendor as a replacement to maintaining a Microsoft Exchange 2007 server on premise for inbound and outbound electronic messages. Conversion to a SAAS vendor would reduce the need to maintain a second Exchange server for contingency purposes, save on software maintenance and client license costs and provide for 7X24 hour monitoring of email delivery. The scope and objective of the work was to select a “best-­‐of-­‐breed” SAAS vendor to provide email hosting services on Microsoft’s Exchange 2010 Platform.

The email effort was planned in concert with and as a component of the overall business continuity planning strategy of our clients. Uninterrupted access to email was defined as a critical business requirement and included along with other critical applications in an infrastructure strategy designed to assure access and protection of the data even in the event of a significant business disruption.

Solution:

The current environments consisted of Microsoft Exchange 2007 single email servers. They are backed up a daily basis and have failover services provided by third party vendors.

The current environments consisted of Microsoft Exchange 2007 single email servers. They are backed up a daily basis and have failover services provided by third party vendors.

Other issues included:

  • Limited Life: Microsoft introduced Exchange 2010 in November 2009 as a replacement for Exchange 2007. This release introduced a new technology, “Database Availability Groups” to replace high availability options for the replication of stored emails. While a sunset date has not been announced, it is only a matter of time before the current environment will need to be upgraded.
  • Cost: There are costs associated with maintaining software licenses on an annual basis to run the current Exchange 2007 platform. In addition to the Microsoft cost, third party vendor failover services for email are purchased in case of a loss of the email server.
  • While email will failover to the third party vendor should there be an issue with the Microsoft Exchange Server, it has been noted that up to 24 hours recovery time may be required to restore the current exchange server from a backup. Implementation of a hosted service should guarantee greater than 99% uptime.

As a result of the assessment and requirements analysis performed by C&A, it was determined that these clients needed a service replacement. RFI’s were written to outline the firms’ requirements and list questions for prospective vendors. C&A was directed to compile a short list of vendors and to expedite the process of collecting responses and identifying the best qualified replacement service.

It was determined that nearly all of the client’s functional requirements could be satisfied by the SAAS email services we evaluated. A “private cloud” or managed service provides a greater degree of customization and feature set control, but at much greater cost. Several vendors confirmed that this solution would not be cost effective for fewer than 1000 users.

The use of Microsoft Exchange 2010 platform was included as a requirement due to its many new features and the likelihood that Microsoft will sunset Exchange 2007 within the next few years.

Email hosting RFI’s were distributed to a short list of prospective vendors. C&A and our clients met with each to discuss the client’s requirements and view a demonstration of each service.

Results:

Based on the results of the requirements analysis, vendor demonstrations, follow-­‐up meetings with the vendors and other 3rd party providers, a side by side comparison of functionality between each vendor and discussions between C&A and the client’s IT managements, a best-­‐of-­‐breed vendor was identified.

The chosen vendor provides a hosted Microsoft Exchange 2010 application service, is well funded, service oriented and functionally positioned to manage the email server requirements of the client. Their feature set and administrative breadth and flexibility is superior to that of the competitors reviewed.