We all know that email is mission-critical for every business. But unless you want to make an on-premise IT department part of your core competency in your business (I strongly suspect most small businesses don't), you need to look at a way to outsource the servers and administration of certain functions.
Granted, you may want to have an on-premise domain controller and file and print services; if so, that will lead you to Microsoft's Small Business Server 2011, a product I heartily endorse. But using SBS for those purposes doesn't mean you can't use Office 365 -- you can and probably should. The bottom line is that unless you absolutely need your Exchange server on-premise (for data security), there is no reason for a small business to deploy Exchange on-premise.
I recommend Office 365, although there are other hosted servces available as well, such as Google Apps. The point is to have someone else do the hardware admin and maintenance -- I say that as a certified Exchange MVP. In fact, when my company ClipTraining.com needed to get email up and running, we deployed the hosted BPOS service (which we're upgradiing to Office 365 this month) instead of deploying Exchange on-premise. With Office 365, I like that I can use the online administrative dashboard or, when I need more control, the familiar (to experienced admins, at least) Exchange Control Panel. For example, the standard dashboard Nlets you create a mailbox, set up quotas, and cover other basics, whereas the control panel lets me establish roles, configure rules, and much more.
Office 365 (or Google Apps) also makes sense if you're a larger business or one that has and wants to keep on-premise Exchange. We see reports of many lage companies and government agencies deploying Google Apps, for example. Both Office 365 and the hosted Exchange services let you create hybrid environments where some servers are on-premise and some are hosted. In fact, Exchange 2010 SP2's new Hybrid Configuration Wizard reduces the steps required to establish a hybrid deployment of Exchange.
Ultimately, I wish companies would call me before they deploy an on-premise Exchange environment so that I can try to talk them out of it, save them some money, and help me avoid the frustration of hunting down the cause of their deployment woes. For many companies, Office 365 is simply a much better option.
This article, "Why small businesses should switch from Exchange to Office 365," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.