Whether you are a small organization or a multi-million dollar business, a sound email service with good Spam filters and forwarding options is a must-have. While there are several e-mail servers that are available on the market today, the most commonly used and probably best of them is none other than Microsoft Exchange server. While you might hate other Microsoft products, when it comes to high-volume corporate e-mail, nothing quite beats Microsoft exchange in terms of features or functionality.
However, finding good exchange hosting is difficult and there are not nearly as many providers as regular web hosting. The price for exchange hosting is also more expensive so if your budget is small, you may find it cost-prohibitive. In this article, we will look at some of the features to look for when seeking a Microsoft Exchange host and some companies that offer this service.
The first thing to look for when looking for exchange hosting is what kind of hardware your exchange service running on. For something like exchange hosting, I would expect no less than a quad-core processor with at least 4GB DDR ram. Optimally, for exchange hosting, I would like to see not one server but a cluster of servers working together to handle e-mail hosting. Do not go with a cheap host that puts your crucial e-mail on run-of-the-mill servers as these servers will have trouble during peak hours of use when getting mail quickly is the most important.
The second thing to look for is technical support. This is critical for exchange hosting as there will be outages and mistakes along the line. Email forwarding, email routing, POP3, and SMTP servers are some of the most common things that break down on a server and these all effect your e-mail service. When this happens, you will want technical support that is specially trained in handling exchange mail issues to quickly solve these problems. You should go for a service that has a 24/7 hotline for emergencies so any complete e-mail meltdowns can be handled quickly. For a good idea of how fast technical support responds and how qualified they are in solving issues and ask around in the hosting forum there about exchange services. People who have used the service in the past will be more than happy to share their experiences with you. People there who have been using exchange services for a long time will also recommend good companies and tell you key points to look for when it comes to exchange e-mail hosting. Joining a community of exchange users is by far the best way to find a good exchange service provider.
The third thing to look for in exchange hosting is security and features. Security is extremely important as you do not want your mail or your employee’s mail to be viewed by outsiders. You also want tight virus scans and Spam filters to keep out unwanted email that may be seen as harassment to employees. Besides this, you will also want features that let you check up on what kinds of emails employees are sending and where they are sending to throughout the organization. Look for these features in their initial description and check to see if they have add-ons that offer better security, mail filtering, and ways to track e-mail flow through the server. Additionally, look to see how many aliases are allowed per email address, the ability to host external domains, mail forwarding options, journals, notes, calenders, and other options that will come in handy for you or your employees in the future. You should also find a host that has mobile access or at least has options to add mobile access as some of our employees will need to check their email via PDA’s or Palms on the go. Most exchange servers have at least some, if not all of these features available and you should not settle for a service that is lacking many of these key features.
The last an probably the thing that people should look for is the cost for the exchange service. When you are talking about this, you are generally talking about the amount of space you get per cost an the cost per account. Exchange mailboxes are not cheap and you’d be hard-pressed to find a service that offers 1GB mailbox accounts per user for under $5 per month per user. If you are seriously considering Microsoft exchange, you should budget around the cost of $6-$7 per account for 1GB mailboxes. Some hosts will give discounts for bulk account orders but the cost will not come down that much unless you are ordering thousands of mailboxes. If you cannot afford this kind of price, you may want to consider a cheaper e-mail solution for your business as services under this price range often lack the support and security features that are absolutely essential to a good exchange service.
Now that we have looked at the key points in an exchange service, lets take time to review a few hosts that offer exchange hosting.
1. 1and1– One of the largest web hosting and internet providers out on the market, 1 and 1 offers web hosting, dedicated servers, and exchange mail hosting. Their exchange plans start at $6.99/month for 1GB e-mail boxes which is about average. They have the required security and spam filtering tools to keep exchange users happy, and have virus scans to keep viruses and worms out of your company’s system. They also have many options for forwarding, e-mail aliases, as well as many additional tools like calenders and journals. However, I cannot vouch for the quality of 1and1’s technical support as their support for regular hosting is somewhat lackluster. The features of 1and1’s exchange hosting are rich and the price range is reasonable, but be sure to check up carefully on their support before buying.
2. Mailstreet – Mail street is a specialized hosting service that focuses solely on email and exchange hosting. They offer plans ranging from 200mb per mailbox all the way up to 2GB per mailbox and can customize for you if you should need bigger boxes. Prices at mailstreet start at $12.95/user($9.95/user if ordering 6 or more) per month for the 200mb accounts so it is a bit more expensive than most of its competitors. They offer the best in hardware with redundant backup grids, anti-virus and anti-hacker protection, 24/7 emergency technical support, online chat support, and even a written service level agreement to back up these offers. Their mail filtering and tracking options are also top of the class. Although this mail host is a bit more expensive than most, it can be well worth it for the service they provide.
3. Intermedia Hosted exchange– Intermedia hosted exchange is a service that offers exchange, sharepoint, blackberry, archiving, as well as a host of other services. They have mailboxes for exchange ranging all the way up to 4GB per account. Their exchange prices start at $11.95 for 3 mailboxes of 500mb each and go all the way up to 50 mailboxes of 4GB each for $575/month. If your looking to buy in bulk, this company has great rates when talking in terms of cost per mb of space for exchange hosting. For the larger mailboxes, this company offers dedicated clustered solutions and dedicated backups for your e-mail so you should not have to worry about messages being lost. They also have a powerful anti-spam suite and premium anti-virus servers. You also get a free sharepoint to store documents along with the exchange hosting. Besides this there are also options for wireless email, fax via email, and sharepoint 3.0 integrations. Technical support is 24/7 either by e-mail or by phone. If your looking to host large numbers of exchange accounts, give this company some consideration.
4. USA.NET – USA.NET is a Microsoft gold certified and SAS 70 Type II Audited that offers a comprehensive set of privacy and security features with their exchange service. You have to e-mail them to get a quote on prices and features but they do offer all the basic mail features and have options to add-on mobile and wireless business mail.
5. ASP one– ASP one specializes in windows hosting and windows hosting applications including exchange. Their exchange hosting has a large amount of features such as RSS feeds, advanced messaging, Anti-Virus, Spam protection, and calenders. They also offer wireless email and sharepoint integration as part of their basic package. Their mailboxes range in size from 250MB all the way to 2GB. You have to email or call them to request a quote but prices start at around $8.95 per account for the 250MB mailbox.
These are four well-known exchange services. You should look at their offerings carefully and pick out the service with the features and prices that suit you the best.