The other day someone asked me for advice on a SBS replacement…and there’s no longer a one size fits all answer.
Here’s what I said in response…..
So how much do you want/need/care/really paranoid about having your email in your own office?
What versions of Outlook are you using? As that’s another deciding factor many times.
For on premises mail servers you have a couple of options.
In the lower price range is either one of the two of the following:
SBS 2011 – includes Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010, Remote Web Access for remote access, supports RDgateway so if you want to remote into your pc from an andriod, ipad, iwhatever, you have a means to easily connect back to your own desktop. If you want to still have on premises SharePoint this is still the way to go. Cheapest way to have on premise exchange based email. That said I will beat up the product because SharePoint patching is a pain in the rear and every time it has a SharePoint update you have to psconfig command. It is not a DIY box. Never had been since day one. So if you do your own patching, you won’t want to do your own patching on this box. You must have a consultant monitor this little guy. Buy it before 12/31/2013 because it won’t be sold after that. Outlook 2003-2013 are supported on this email server.
Windows server 2012 and Kerio. A viable option, however do be aware that unlike Microsoft they require annual maintenance fees and the security updates are not free but part of the annual fee. They are also changing the fee (I forget the pricing now) for the activesync cal and are making that a separate purchase (please folks correct me if i’m wrong I don’t keep up with the sales/marketing as much as I should). It does not need as beefy as hardware as SBS 2011 will need. The software costs over the long term may not be cheaper – so keep that in mind. Outlook 2003-2013 are supported on this email server. Kerio installs a connector on the workstation that glues into Outlook. You don’t really see any difference, you are still using Outlook just as you did before. It’s the backside where the consultant deals with is what has changed.
Now we move into the other options:
Windows 2012 Essentials with either on premises email or hosted email. And be aware that Windows Server 2012 r2 essentials is in public preview right now and given Windows 8.1 release date is probably going to be out for purchase by the end of the year.
So I’m going to focus more on R2′s stuff than plain 2012 just because it’s close to being released and thus you may want to wait for it if you decide to go this way.
It includes Remote Web access, also the ability to hook into desktops remotely, supports tablets better, and will support connecting into a separate on premises server with Exchange on it, or will support connecting into Office 365 where hosted Exchange/SharePoint is offered up. It supports 25 users but can be flipped to support more than that when needed. Essentials also includes client backup and as I deploy nearly an all SSD drive office and where I just had one totally die on me this week in a laptop we have, having a client backup is something I put in to ensure that when SSD’s die, I don’t have to madly rebuild a PC I can just replace the harddrive and push the workstation restore back to the bare drive. SBS 2011 does not include client backup ability. Essentials does.
If you go with the on premises Exchange, you’ll either need to virtualize the server and put Exchange and Essentials as virtualized machines on one box or two separate servers. Not DIY, you’ll need a consultant monitoring this. You can choose Exchange 2010 via volume license downgrade rights (Outlook 2003-2013 are supported on this email server) or Exchange 2013 (only Outlook 2007 and later are supported on this email server).
If you go with hosted email, your files will be local, your email and SharePoint will connect to your server via a SSL tunnel. Outlook 2007 and later is supported. No Outlook 2003 works on Office 365. This is a key gotcha for many small firms – if you are married to Office 2003 (which also falls out of support next year), Outlook 2003 will not run with Office 365.
So where’s your comfort level as to where your email needs to be these days? What Outlook are you using? That’s typically the driver of these decisions.
[and for uber geekdom - in the 2012 R2 era, Microsoft is now putting the Remote Web Access web site/client backup stuff as a "role" in Standard and Datacenter and even in an Azure virtual machine. So if you want to add this to larger firms, you now can. The Windows Server Essentials Experience (who comes up with these names?!) can be installed on a 2012 R2 member server in an existing domain.]