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To Cloud or not to Cloud: What should I do with my Exchange environment?


Thomas_Strasser_badge.pngOne of the decisions that currently many CIOs have to make is whether “to cloud or not to cloud”. The decision may be easy for smaller companies. But larger companies that are international or have to comply with severe regulatory, security or audit requirements (for example, in public sector environments) will have a hard time in moving confidential data into the cloud.


Hosted Exchange is not a new concept because providers like HP have offered this service for more than 10 years. What has changed is that the acceptability of cloud-based Exchange increased dramatically when Microsoft introduced its first generation of Exchange online in 2007, followed by continued investment in software engineering and datacenter build-out to provide a robust email service available on a worldwide coverage.


Although it still will take a long time (maybe too long) for enterprise companies to move from on-premises to Office 365, the fact that Office 365 now supports millions of mailboxes indicates that Microsoft is having success in migrating companies that run either older Exchange platforms (Exchange 2003 and previous) or competing cloud systems to Office 365.


However, things are going more slowly with large customers that support more than 15,000 seats, simply because these environments tend to be more complex and so require a lot more planning to make the move.


The customization challenge


Another barrier with an Office 365 migration is the customer’s need to control external access from certain departments within the organization. This can be a policy designed to meet regulatory requirements for data access and control. Office 356 is a standard service offering and customization beyond strict parameters is not allowed; changes have to be vetted and approved by Microsoft as the supplier of the product. Ad-hoc changes to meet very specific customer requirements would make the service very difficult to manage and may affect other customers. While the server infrastructure is dedicated, the externally facing network infrastructure is not, so changes must be very carefully managed.


At the same time it’s not clear that Office 365, as an off-premises solution alone, is meeting customers’ expectations. This is probably not an isolated reality, but rather a symptom of an overall condition: Public Cloud solutions often don’t meet the customers’ expectations and need to step up on more than one front. Possibly a diagnostic could expose the central issues, or the IT strategic plan could address multiple issues and develop a roadmap to get IT where it should be — adding great value.


Hybrid configuration: Pro and Con


If you want to keep some elements of email on-premises, a hybrid deployment becomes attractive. For example you might decide that the mailboxes of senior executives and information workers, who deal with core intellectual property, will remain on-premises while everyone else uses Office 365. Microsoft has done a great deal of engineering heavy lifting to enable hybrid deployments in the latest version of Exchange 2013, so the technical aspects of the solution are addressed.


However, a hybrid deployment introduces new costs to the equation due to the complexity of the environment and the need to use additional software to accomplish goals such as single sign-on across the on-premises and cloud platforms. Make sure that these costs are identified and incorporated into your calculations if you plan to go hybrid.


What can HP do for you?


We can help you to align your technology strategy with your strategic business objectives over a predefined timeline and to create an actionable transformation plan. We do this through our soon-to-be-available Office 365 Strategic Planning for Messaging, Lync and SharePoint Online elements of our Network Services. Within Office 365, Network Services concentrates on hybrid solutions, where parts of the infrastructure are on-premises at the customer’s datacenter, and the remaining infrastructure is in Microsoft’s public cloud.


HP’s seasoned consultants follow our patented HP RightStep framework to address IT strategy and transformation holistically. Beginning with the business context and current environment, we formulate a technology future state, perform gap analyses and prepare an IT strategy and transformation plan for execution. Significant is that it is done with active client participation throughout to assure transparency and openness.


In addition HP has the right hardware for you:


  • HP recommended configurations for Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 and HP ProLiant SL4540 Gen8 Servers Download Here
  • ProLiant SL4540 Gen8 Server (3 node) 4,500 Mailbox Resiliency Exchange 2013 Storage Solution Download Here
  • HP MSA 2040 Array 750 Mailbox Resiliency Exchange 2013 Storage Solution Download here

Whatever your preferred option is, make sure that you have all the data to justify your decision. Our knowledge about the operation, economics, strengths and weaknesses of cloud systems has been growing all along. We can use that knowledge to assist you in aligning your IT strategy with the business to make sure that your organization can leverage this crucial IT asset.


Learn more about how HP Network Consulting Services can help you connect your enterprise to a flexible and optimized network.


To learn more about me and how I can help you improve your messaging and communication strategies, visit my HP Technology Expert profile.

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Excellent article.

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