Today’s community contributor is Derek Schroeder. He has been working in IT and specifically in the MSP market for over 15 years. He has extensive experience in the small-to-medium business management market and has been consulting on technology and solutions for much of his career. He has worked as an entry level engineer to a service manager of clients and teams of engineers as well as project management. He has an expertise background in IT security and email / collaboration systems and has embraced many of the Barracuda products to achieve those milestones. He has written many business software reviews on TrustRadius.
It seems like every website or domain host has an email hosting service to offer. There are a few flavors and types of hosts, and they are not created equal. While Microsoft’s Office 365 is the most recognizable (and fastest growing), Google’s G Suite is still a very popular option. Intermedia should not be counted out as another vendor offering email hosting for a relatively low cost option.
Intermedia is simply a hosted Microsoft Exchange system. Intermedia overlays its own interface and gives end users some options to customize. This is the same system that companies can purchase and put on their own server within their office, but many of the options have been diluted to make things simple. The service is very affordable, but lacks many of the niceties of its competitors, including integration with Microsoft Active Directory user system. Intermedia also offers Office licensing, but this is merely a frontend of the same Office 365 subscription with fewer features / customization. If one is looking for simple hosted email, this is the easiest route to achieve it.
Google’s G Suite is a different animal altogether. While it is hosted email, it is not based on the Microsoft Exchange system at all. Google has built their own email platform that the free Gmail system utilizes. G Suite is multiple layers on top of Gmail that includes integration with Microsoft Active Directory for users and groups.
G Suite has almost identical feature sets as Office 365, but switching between the two can be a bit messy, so make sure your decision is final and vetted. It is a hefty decision regarding the choice between Office 365 and G Suite given the difficulty to switch once started. G Suite is not lacking for applications, but they do lack the number of participants available, which can make collaboration a challenge. While G Suite can be used within email applications (such as Microsoft’s Outlook), many opt to simply use a web browser to access email.
This brings up an interesting distinction: G Suite only provides web-based apps. While this may save time for your IT department, many people still prefer to use the desktop application over the browser-based equivalent. This is an important thing to note when making the choice.
Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft’s Office 365 is considered by many to be the premiere email hosting option. It seems like every time one turns around Microsoft is adding features and applications to its vast 365 array. There are many flavors of licensing that include Office applications in your browser, and/or desktop installations. Not all subscriptions include desktop applications, so if this is a deal killer, it’s worth reading the fine print on which subscriptions have access to what. Email hosting is economically reasonable and charges only incur with live person mailboxes so there is flexibility with shared / resource mailboxes. Microsoft also makes it very easy to do monthly or annual licensing to ensure it’s easy to get started (or wind down).
Office 365 is also very easy to collaborate with, given the majority of the world is utilizing it. While G Suite offers the same connectivity and basic applications, they do not speak the same language (unless you export and import everything). Sharing from Office 365 to Office 365 makes life easy. Office 365 integrates very well with local Outlook applications (as expected), and this makes the experience very easy from start to finish when using Microsoft applications.
While there are many hosts out there, Microsoft’s Office 365 platform is still the gold standard. The email segment is so flexible and easy to administer that it’s hard not to recommend. The third party integration with Office 365 is also unmatched, so your application usage is always available.