A lot of law firms outsource their Microsoft Exchange Server to a third-party provider instead of purchasing a server and hosting Microsoft Exchange internally. The advantages are that the third-party absorbs the cost of hardware, software, management, and leaves the law firm with just a monthly investment of $10-$25 per month per user, depending on who the provider is and how much storage / add-ons you elect to have. For some firms, however, this isn’t the most cost-effective route, and there are significant advantages of hosting Exchange internally.
Check out the complete step-by-step guide that explores Microsoft Exchange and whether your firm is better off outsourcing or hosting Exchange internally.
But first, let’s discuss the risks associated with outsourced or internal Exchange hosting:
- Theft: Large companies are targeted more frequently by hackers and such because, once penetrated, they have more stuff that can be stolen, giving the hackers better bang-for-the-buck. That said, larger companies have enterprise-grade security, including hardware and software solutions, whereas your small firm might have just software solutions and “password” passwords.
- Failures: Whoever owns the Exchange software owns the risk associated with hardware and software failure, troubleshooting, and repair; if your provider is down it’s costing them, not you, whereas if your mail server is down you’re absorbing those costs. Accordingly, if you own Exchange, be proactive instead of reactive and prevent issues instead of reacting to them.
- Uptime: A hosted solution gives you risk in that if they are down, you are down, and there’s no way around this. Sure you can call Ethiopia and talk to “The Manager”, but you’re not getting access to email any faster because you told them your hearing is in one hour. You’re stuck just like everyone else. Most of these services promise 99% uptime, but, while I admire their enthusiasm, I’m still skeptical. That said, it’s a two way street; if you don’t properly manage and maintain your server and Exchange account, then you’ll cause your own downtime and be the person holding the bill once it’s fixed.
- Internet / Power: In a hosted arrangement, if you lose power or Internet, you’re down – period. Most likely you’ll have access to your phone which uses an alternative source of internet (like 3G) but this is hardly ideal, especially for email-intensive attorneys.
- Cloud Conundrum: You still deal with the whole cloud conundrum if you outsource to a third-party – who owns my emails, me or them? Who is liable if emails and / or personally identifiable information (PII) are stolen, me or them? Am I violating Bar Association / ethics standards with offsite storage? If Exchange (and all the associated emails) are onsite, problem solved.
- Systems Integrations: Owning your own Exchange allows you to integrate it with other legal-applications, such as Time Matters for practice management. This integration is very important for firms looking to stream calendar, to-do, and contact information directly to mobile phones & tablets. A third-party that hosts Exchange “in the cloud” can’t always provide direct integrations with your applications, which are run locally on your desktop or server. Accordingly, if you need integrations between local systems, you’ll usually want Exchange to be on your server.
Assessing risk is only one end of the spectrum. You should also consider cost, maintenance, infrastructure, firm size and more. Knowledge is key to growth, so make sure you know all the facts before you make a decision. To learn more, download this guide to choosing which Hosted Exchange is right for your firm.