This was a question I was asked from a university in the Midwest who was interested in moving from another email platform to Exchange in the cloud.
As you may or may not know, we are extending Exchange Server and Office Communications Server into the cloud as part of our Software+Services vision. For Exchange, we have three Exchange cloud offerings to choose from.
Where do I begin?
First you should identify what are the key email service requirements for your school district or campus.
An example of some requirements:
What factors are driving me to the cloud?
Do we require service level agreements? What are they?
Do we have Exchange in house expertise?
What are my mobile device needs?
Do we have archiving needs?
Do we have backup needs?
Do I want to host just students, faculty and staff, or both?
Are you currently on Exchange or another email system?
Do you currently have OCS?
What do I need to migrate?
Do I want other cloud services now or in the future such as conferencing, IM, SharePoint, etc?
What is my unified communications roadmap? Does it include OCS voice?
Do I need voicemail?
What are the Exchange offerings?
1) Exchange Online Standard – which most Education customers will more than likely use for faculty and staff. This provides you most Exchange functionality (Spam filtering, Outlook anywhere, Activesync, OWA, etc), SLAs, 5GB quota, backups. It also has archiving, and Blackberry support at additional cost per month if needed. It is a lower cost point since it is multi-tenant. Note: The site linked above does not reflect Education pricing.
2) Exchange Online Dedicated – which only very large Education customers will use with 20,000 mailboxes or larger. This is more geared towards enterprise customers and therefore more cost effective for Education customers with larger number of mailboxes. This is a higher cost point since it is dedicated servers for just your mailboxes, dedicated administrators, etc. Note: The site linked above does not reflect Education pricing.
3) Outlook Live – which is an email option of Live@Edu and is free for Students and Alumni and can also host faculty and staff. We are currently hosting over 4 million students on the platform. A perfect fit for students and alumni since students can use Outlook Anywhere, iPhones, etc and it relieves the pressure off of your current email platform (rackspace, storage, viruses, etc).
For faculty and staff, it may or may not be a good fit based on your requirements above. Since it is free, there are no hard SLAs, no backups, no archiving and no BES support at this time. You do get a larger quota 10GB, and it is on Exchange14 beta so you get some new feature benefits.
4) On premise Exchange – This provides you the most flexibility since you can also have Exchange voicemail, custom transport rules, etc. This also allows you a richer on premise OCS experience for voice and conferencing.
5) Hybrid combination of cloud and on premises
You may have a need to have some on-premise Exchange and some cloud based Exchange. I have seen where executives may have a local Exchange server and everyone else is in the cloud.
BPOS stands for Business Productivity Online Suite (Standard). It consists of Exchange Online, OCS Online, Live Meeting Online, and SharePoint Online. You can get sign up for all these services per individual or mix and match services per individual need.
Here is a breakdown of the BPOS features:
Does OCS Online have every feature of OCS on premises?
At this point in time, it does not have federation and enterprise voice.
Which Exchange offering should I use?
For students, I think Outlook Live/Live@Edu is a no brainer since it is free and allows you to synchronize with on-premise Exchange if needed. Lots of interest to move students to the cloud.
For faculty and staff, this all depends on your core email service requirements. A lot of customers considering this want to move from an alternate email platform and do not want to hire in house Exchange experts for example. Other customers want to cut costs and gain stability by using our Microsoft Exchange administrators in our datacenters.
You certainly should think about your OCS voice strategy and how that plays into your strategy since placing Exchange in the cloud will greatly reduce the OCS on premise experience.
In my opinion at this point in time, I think most education customers will either stay with Exchange on premises or go with Exchange Online Standard. The benefits of Exchange Online over Outlook Live are you get SLAs, BES, Archiving, etc. at the time of this post.
Another benefit customers have told me with Exchange Online is they like having the flexibility of using the other BPOS services such as SharePoint Online, OCS Online, and LiveMeeting Online. They also like the fact you can mix various offerings (e.g. 500 full BPOS, 1000 Exchange and MOSS Online, and 500 Exchange only) and even a deskless worker option which is a reduced Exchange experience (OWA only).
Feel free to post what your school is considering as I would be interested in what direction education customers are thinking.
For an Exchange Online Standard 30-day trial you can try it here.