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What to look for in a supplier of Microsoft Hosted Exchange

Once you have made a decision to go for hosted Exchange Server, the next step is to choose a provider. Price is clearly an important factor but there are other things you should consider too.

Here is a list of questions to ask a would-be supplier. You should look for a company that will take the time to answer your questions in terms you understand.

About the company

Do they have a track record with hosted Exchange?

Do they supply companies similar to yours? Are there case studies available for you to look at?

Do they understand your business needs?

Are they a Microsoft Certified Partner?

Are they accredited according to any internationally-recognised standards, such as ISO 9001 for quality control or ISO 7799 / 27001 for information security?

Security and reliability

How do they back up your data?

Do they provide service level agreements (SLAs) that cover up-time, technical support and so on?

What is included and excluded in the SLAs? For example, there's no point promising 99.99% availability if the SLA has lots of exclusions.

Ask them what availability they have actually achieved in the last year.

If they promise 24/7 technical support, ask who is on duty overnight and weekends. Are they actually technicians who can solve problems or non-technical call centre operators?

What anti-virus and anti-spam solutions do they use? You should expect a multi-layered defence that includes well-known commercial security software.


Do you need to switch to their internet service provider and/or their domain management service to use hosted Exchange? This might involve extra cost and hassle.

How much storage (per user or across the whole company) do they provide? If you need more how much does additional storage cost? If you have a big email archive or you send and receive large attachments it is easy to use up a lot of storage capacity.

If you need it, does the price include full Exchange functionality, such as shared calendars and address books? Do you get a free copy of Microsoft Outlook 2003 or must you use Outlook Web Access instead? Make sure that the price you get includes the functionality you need but conversely if you don't need extra functionality, make sure you don't pay for it.

What other services are available that can help improve your business further? For example, can SharePoint be included and at what cost? How many SharePoint users are you allowed and how much does each additional user cost?

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If you already have a broadband connection and a domain name, what help will they provide in configuring them to work with their service?

For mobile access, does the service include support for Blackberry devices as well as Microsoft PocketPCs and Smart Phones?

What provision do they make for transferring your data back to you if you decide to terminate your contract? For example, how much does it cost to have your data transferred to CD-ROMs?

What next?

Supplier details
Now you know what questions to ask, view details of some suppliers

It works for us
Read about other small businesses who've benefited from hosted services

Hosted or in-house?
If you're not sure whether to outsource or do everything in-house, we can help you decide

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How to buy

If you've decided that hosted services are right for you, or just want information about a specific solution, contact one of these suppliers for more information:

- BT

- Cobweb

- Webfusion

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