MS Exchange is still the gold standard on-premise email server
October 23, 2019

MS Exchange is still the gold standard on-premise email server

Jane Updegraff | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 6 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft Exchange

Microsoft Exchange currently underpins our email servers and failover email servers. The exchange serves every employee (that has an email address) across our entire enterprise. I've been using and managing Exchange for over two decades at three different companies. What it does is act as an email flow (receipt, delivery, handling of various types) manager and it controls all aspects of an end user's email handling, although not the end user's experience. The end user's experience is provided by any of a number of email "clients" or software packages. Exchange is what works in the background and the email client is what is used to interface with the user so they can send and receive the email.
  • Exchange does a great job of delivering emails using all of the well-known mail protocols. It sends using SMTP like all other mail handlers and it receives mail using POP and IMAP. It's extremely reliable and it can be configured for adequate failover.
  • It's very good at managing email traffic on-premise, or inside the edge of a corporate network. If you want absolute control over your email and you want to keep all of it in-house and not in the cloud, Exchange is perfect for that.
  • Exchange is fast. It's processing speeds are impressive, and mail can be handled in enormous quantities, even by a very modest Exchange deployment of one or two servers.
  • Exchange can't handle spam filtering very well on its own, or rather, it can do spam filtering based on subscription services, but no one really publishes subscription services anymore, at least not for free. So you generally have to find a third-party tool to help filter spam before it gets to your Exchange server, and if you do not do that, your users will get a lot of spam unless your Exchange administrator is constantly tinkering with filtering.
  • Exchange servers are resource-needy in several areas, as one might expect. It requires sturdy, well-provisioned hardware (read that as a big server or really big server depending on how much mail you expect that it will handle) and it needs a very large bandwidth internet pipe because of the sheer quantity of in and out traffic. This is, of course, strongly dependent on the number of your email users and the types of emails they typically send. But in general, you will need a big internet circuit and bog server to handle email traffic.
  • Exchange is an on-premise solution that must be run on your own hardware. That involves large capital outlay. It's not always the right choice as a result.
  • We've experienced extremely low ongoing costs associated with handling email because we bought our on-prem Exchange servers and paid for the hardware and licensing upfront. We own it and it has run effectively and well for many years with no additional costs other than electricity and maintenance. It's still a cost-effective model. it just requires that you buy everything upfront.
  • We spend very little time managing Exchange because we utilize a third-party spam filter/email defense product that filters out most of the garbage before it ever even reaches Exchange. So it's one of those products that, for us, is just always there and just working in the background without us having to do much other than routine patching. Anything that just works as it should is an unexpected pleasure.
Office 365 has hosted Microsoft email that is powered by Exchange but which is run completely in the Microsoft cloud and paid for by monthly subscription. Microsoft Exchange, on the other hand, is hosted on-premise and inside your own network. They both work the same way and do roughly the same things, although the hosted version represents a lot less work for your admin. So the question becomes "do you need to have full control on-premise or can you let Microsoft host your email?". The answer is going to be different for all enterprises based on what you need to get out of your email handler and whether or not you want to pay extra for all the stuff that hosted email can provide that is over and above the barebones, out of the box features of Exchange. We have to pay for a spam interception service (Proofpoint) because we are hosting our own Exchange servers. If you went with a cloud email solution (including Office 365), much of what you need that is above and beyond Exchange is going to be provided as a part of the hosting and license package, and that includes spam filtering. So there is a lot more implementation involved when you use the on-prem exchange, and you have to buy extra third-party products to filter spam.
Microsoft support for Exchange is very good. It's been around a very long time and they have very experienced technicians in their support center as a result. I have no complaints about MS Exchange support whatsoever.

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Exchange is the long-established email server of choice for Microsoft shops that want to host their own email servers. This is true for small, medium and large enterprises that use Microsoft products. If you do not want to host your own email servers, if you are not a Microsoft shop, or if you expect to handle very small amounts of email (companies with under 100 email addresses, for instance) then this solution is probably not for you. For a very small enterprise, it would be too expensive to implement and license and in addition, it requires specialized knowledge to deploy, so for many micro-SMBs, cloud-hosted email is much more affordable and hassle-free way to handle your corporate email. Cloud-hosted email is also becoming more popular in larger enterprises, primarily because it's so inexpensive and removes the need for any initial capital outlay.

Microsoft Exchange Feature Ratings

End-to-End Encryption
Management Tools