Back in 2012, Microsoft announced the end of life for the Small Business Server (SBS) product line (see SBS End of Life: Microsoft Punishes Small Businesses). As with any retiring technologies, some organizations will wait to move until there is a current need. If something works, why fix it?
With Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 reach end of life as well, many are taking a new look at whether now is the time to move.
Here are 6 questions to ask before you make the move.
1) Does cloud-based email work for your business?
While many focus on why you should NOT move to cloud-based email, services like Google Apps for Business provide the security and privacy controls — and support encryption and other services — needed to meet pretty much any data protection requirement.
Focus on the value cloud-based email can provide to your business.
- Secure access to email, from any device, at any time
- Built in spam/virus protection
- No monthly updates
- No local queue errors
- No VPN or additional web server needed
- Affordable options for archiving, encryption, and backup/restore
2) What is the total cost of ownership?
When upgrading from SBS, organizations will need to purchase new 64-bit server hardware with additional disk space, new versions of Windows Server, new Windows CALs, Exchange Server Licenses, new Exchange CALs. They will also need to purchase or upgrade their spam/virus protection solution and backup/recovery system.
Beyond the purchase, Microsoft still requires administrators to update software monthly — often multiple times each month — in order to maintain security patches and updates.
Moving to the cloud, organizations skip the large capital expenditure. Cloud-based email solutions are operating expenses. Costs are tied to the number of users, not to the amount of capacity you may use in the future.
When moving organizations to Google Apps for Business, we see customers saving 30% to as much as 70% over 3 year and 5 year TCO cycles.
3) How much disruption will end users experience?
Yes, some users are afraid to move away from MS Outlook and your existing web access for email. When surveying users, however, we find that in most organizations, 60% to 80% already use cloud-based email services, like Gmail, personally. The change in user experience is likely less than initial perceptions.
But, moving is a change and can have an impact.
As we move organizations to Google Apps, we include communications about the changes and opportunities for users to learn how to best use the new tools. We make self-help learning systems — video and interactive — available to users. We also offer customized workshops and “web office hours”. In short, many methods exist to help users make the transition and understand how they can do more with their new email service.
4) Is the replacement system you’re considering easy to administer?
If planning to stay in-house, the answer will be “No!”. New versions of MS Exchange include features and complexity designed to serve the needs of larger enterprises. For small and mid-size enterprises, they live with the additional administrative burden.
Moving to cloud-based email dramatically reduces administrative requirements. Without hardware, operating systems, and Exchange software, management of Google Apps for Business focuses on user settings and support.
5) Is the vendor committed to small and mid-sized businesses?
By deeds more than words, Microsoft is focused on large enterprises. Recent licensing changes have removed the most affordable Windows and Exchange options for small and mid-size enterprises, increasing minimum costs by as much as 100%.
Cumulus Global, as a Google Apps Premier SMB Partner, is focuses exclusively on businesses and nonprofits with 1 to 500 employees. We also serve K-12 education, smaller higher education, and local/regional governments. We tailor our services to the needs of small and mid-size enterprises, understanding needs, priorities, and budgets.
6) Is the change a better value?
When moving from any in-house MS Exchange solution to Google Apps for Business, you are gaining more than a secure, reliable email service. Google Apps is a small business productivity platform, with:
- Integrated personal and shared calendars
- Secure Instant Messaging
- Voice / Video conferencing
- Hangouts — video meetings with shared documents and desktops
- Google Docs productivity tools — word processing, spreadsheets, and more
- Drive for storage of Google-based and legacy files of any type
- Local Drive sync and share, providing integration for MS Office users
- Secure web Sites, for your intranet, projects, and customer portals
- Integration with hundreds of business applications and services.
With more than email to offer, solutions like Google Apps for Business deliver greater value, even if additional features are not used immediately.