2 reasons to migrate off of Microsoft Exchange Server

By migrating away from Microsoft Exchange, you reduce costs for your organization and improve the security of your accounts and data. One option to use instead: Kolab.

2 reasons to migrate off of Microsoft Exchange Server
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A few weeks back, I wrote that “choosing Microsoft Windows for your organization should get you fired.”

It’s a statement that, while certainly a bit on the inflammatory side, I completely stand by—mostly due to the known insecure nature of running Windows as a server operating system.

What I didn’t do was give specific examples of what to move your existing Windows-based infrastructure to. Sure, the obvious answer for most SysAdmins is simply “migrate the servers over to Linux.” But what about specific server applications that your organization might already rely upon? That’s a whole other can of worms.

Let’s drill down and look at one specific case: Microsoft Exchange Server.

Exchange has been around for a fairly long time—since the 1990s—and many organizations have come to heavily rely upon it for their email, calendaring and contacts. For so many companies, this has become the de facto “groupware” suite, and leaving it behind for a different solution can sound daunting—and downright frightening. 

Benefits of getting rid of Microsoft Exchange Server

As I see it, from a purely practical perspective, there are two key reasons for ditching Exchange: cost and security.

The security issue is a simple one. Exchange runs on Microsoft Windows Server. A platform that has been the victim of a rather relentless onslaught of breaches. Plus, there’s the whole “neither Exchange nor Windows are open source” problem, thus making effective security audits 100 percent impossible.

Cost is a whole other problem. Exchange uses a Client Access License model where you (as an administrator of the server) pay for each user with an account. Plus, if you host your own Exchange server, there are those costs as well.

To give a rough example, back in 2008, a company (with roughly 800 employees) switched away from Microsoft Exchange to a cheaper solution (in their case Google Apps) and expected to save an estimated $750,000 per year because of it. In doing the math, I’d say that number might be a bit overblown, but there’s no doubt the savings would be substantial (if not quite $750k). 

What to use instead of Microsoft Exchange Server: Kolab

Clearly there are compelling reasons to make the move away from Exchange. But—where do you move to?

One recommendation I can make would be to utilize Kolab. It is a completely open-source groupware server with all the key features that most organizations would need from Exchange.

Because it is open source, doing full security audits is going to be far more doable—thus keeping your data far more secure. Also, because of the beauty of open source, you can set up the server and migrate all of your users to this system—with zero licensing costs.

For organizations that need a bit more hands-on help, there’s a company supporting the project (Kolab Systems) and supported/hosted options (KolabNow).

There are other ways to achieve similar groupware-ish functionality by pulling together the components yourself, but there’s something to be said for a completely open source, ready-to-go system like this. It just makes life a bit easier.

They even provide details and tips on how to effectively migrate an existing set of users from Microsoft Exchange to Kolab.

This is not new and unexplored territory here. By looking at migrating away from Exchange, you aren’t blazing a new trail. You’re doing something others have already done before—to reduce the costs for your organization while doing the smart thing to ensure the security of your accounts and data.

I have no ties to Kolab or the organization behind Kolab, but I have been using the KolabNow hosted service for my email and calendaring for quite some time now. It is fast, is consistent, and has excellent usability—really nothing at all for me to complain about. I recommend it whole heartedly.

Now. You have to ask yourself. After reading that—why would you stay with Microsoft Exchange? Remember, if you do opt to stick with Exchange, if a server breach occurs— you will have chosen the path that exposed your company’s data. And when it comes time to pay the next round of Client Access fees, you’ll have opted into that as well.

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