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Microsoft announced a while back that it would not be supporting Exchange 2003 past April 8, 2014. With the deadline looming, organizations still running Exchange 2003 face a tough decision.

Here it is. On April 8, 2014, the tech giant will no longer support its Microsoft Exchange 2003 Server platform. No more patches, no more bug fixes and no more support whatsoever from Microsoft. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for businesses that choose to remain on Exchange 2003 beyond this date. It also means potential security risks, violations in regards to compliance regulations and more.

It’s been ten years since Exchange 2003 was launched, and quite honestly, the IT world —and the overall office environment— has evolved considerably. Organizations now require social, mobile and collaboration features that just weren’t around in 2003. With Exchange 2003’s end of life, organizations still running this platform will face a tough decision as they decide what to do next.

There are mainly two options, which all come with their own pros and cons. Here’s what they mean for your company.

Option 1: Migrate to an on-premise Exchange 2010 or 2013 environment

Exchange 2010 & 2013 have proven themselves to be more robust platforms with better availability and simplified administration. What’s more, with the Outlook Web App interface, emails are accessible from literally anywhere there’s Internet access.

Plus, you get compatibility with communication and collaboration tools like Lync, SharePoint, Yammer and more. Integration across all these tools will enhance productivity and workflows.

The flip side is that migrating to an on-premise instance of Exchange 2010 or 2013 isn’t without hassles. First, the migration itself can lead to significant downtime of your email infrastructure, and you’ll need either internal expertise to handle all the work or outsource it to migration experts.

Moreover, these improved but more complex environments might require upgrades and investments in your network and hardware. This can drive up the initial cost of migrating to Exchange 2010 or 2013 considerably.

That’s not counting the heightened burden on your IT department’s shoulders. Managing these more complex environments will require more time and skills than with Exchange 2003. Integration with Lync or SharePoint will also require time and knowledge your team might not have right now.

This option is clearly much better than staying on Exchange 2003, but it will probably require investments in money, time, training, etc.

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Option 2: Move to the cloud… Power a hosted Exchange 2010 or 2013 solution

Host your email in the Cloud

Hosted Exchange providers can offer you all the benefits of an on-premise deployment, but will save you the upfront capex and labor investment. The provider owns and maintains all equipment. It also makes sure the latest patches and updates are applied to the infrastructure in order to keep your Exchange platform secure and efficient.

Some providers will also handle the migration process for free; they will ensure the platform’s compliance and reliability (through SLAs), and they will lighten the load on your IT resources so that your team has more time to work on strategic projects.

The hosted version is also easy to budget. Most providers offer pay-only-for-what-you-need monthly pricing, and they let you scale your services as your company grows.

Although this option will make the most sense for many organizations, it too has its drawbacks. Your level of control over your environment and its availability, performance and compliance depends on the hosting provider you choose. Some providers also charge fees for migration, set-up, onboarding services or support.

Evaluating hosting providers therefore becomes the most important task for organizations thinking about moving to the Cloud. For example, you’ll want to make sure you know where your data is being stored, as some providers have datacenters in Europe or Asia.

That’s said, a good hosting provider can offer the same (if not better) level of service and performance of your on-premise Exchange 2003 environment – and sometimes much more.

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Choosing Sherweb’s Hosted Exchange 2013 or 2010

As Microsoft’s World Hosting Partner of the Year, Sherweb can offer highly reliable and efficient hosted Exchange solutions. Free migration, free onboarding services, a 99.999% financially backed uptime guarantee and free 24/7 support are just a few perks of the Sherweb experience.

Our hosted Exchange bundles are integrated with SharePoint & Lync to enhance team productivity and collaboration. We also offer email compliance solutions, online backup solutions and more.

Visit our website or call (1-855-780-0955) to learn more about Sherweb’s value-added hosted Exchange 2013.

Written by JP Mercier Employee @ SherWeb

JP is SherWeb’s community manager. He has been working for IT companies since 2010, in both the software and cloud computing industry. JP has a degree in communication and specializes in online marketing. As a good Canadian, he is (overly) polite and loves hockey.