Email Availability Considerations

Keeping your email up and running is mission critical.  While other business applications can go down without much notice, when email is down for even a minute everyone in the organization notices and wants answers.  As such, Exchange admins have long had approaches for ensuring email availability through various approaches.  This is also why Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Online provide built-in high availability – nothing more is required to ensure email high availability. 

Customers that have upgraded to Exchange 2010 have already seen the benefits of high availability tools that we have built right into the product.

“With Exchange Server 2010, we’ve been able to eliminate the third party hosted disaster recovery solution, which saves about £12,000 (U.S.$19,560) per year.” - Steve Derbyshire, IT Manager, NEC Philips Unified Solutions

“With our new solution built on Exchange Server 2010, we realize consistently high availability and the site resiliency with very little maintenance and administration. We also expect to reduce our RTO by 20 percent.” - Dan Evans, Manager of Messaging and Collaboration, Morgan Keegan & Company

For earlier versions of Exchange, there are a wide range of Exchange partners who offer availability solutions from LiveOffice to Dell’s Email Continuity and the newest entrant being Google.  In determining an availability approach, it is important to consider three factors: user experience, ease of deployment and management, and vendor experience.

The most important factor is ease of use for end users.  In any availability solution to such a critical application as email, the transition process should be seamless.  In Exchange 2010, users won’t even know they are accessing a different database.  Outlook users can be switched to a backup database when necessary without interruption or notification, and they can continue working in Outlook without switching mailboxes. 

Solutions like LiveOffice and Dell natively integrate with Outlook so the user experience is consistent, and there is near zero user impact. Google takes a different approach, which requires a separate Gmail account to access backed up email.  This introduces a very different user experience and doesn’t support features like Outlook folders.  Additionally, Google requires a different password provided by the Exchange administrator.  In the event of a failure, the user will need to switch from Outlook to a new Gmail account and log in with the new password.  In looking at the three options, Google’s introduces the most user disruption.  

The second important factor is ease of deployment and management.  In Exchange 2010, Microsoft has made changes in the Exchange architecture that make it much easier to manage a high availability environment, without the deep knowledge of clustering that was previously required.  High availability deployment and management tools are built right into Exchange 2010 and there isn’t a need for additional availability solutions.  Additionally, Exchange Online provides high availability as a built in part of the service.

Vendors like Live Office use native Exchange tools and can work with any anti-virus/anti-spam solution in place.  This means there is very little IT admin impact to set up and manage over time. 

In the Google offering, a separate Google Sync Server is required to connect Gmail to Exchange.  Additionally, any customer of Google Message Continuity must switch to Google’s anti-virus and anti-spam product.  The complexity from adding two new services shouldn’t be underestimated. 

One final factor to consider is vendor experience with Exchange.  Vendors like Live Office and Dell have provided Exchange services for many years and have dedicated Microsoft Certified Exchange Professionals driving and implementing their solutions.  This level of knowledge and support of Exchange should be required of any vendor being considered.

For more technical details on high availability in Exchange 2010, read today’s post on the EHLO blog.


Julia White

Senior Director, Exchange Product Management


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