Exchange and Outlook Blog

Exchange Server in the Cloud: Still Cloudy

There's been a lot of noise this week about Google losing users' Gmail data. Could the same thing happen in Microsoft's data centers for Exchange Online or Office 365? Both Microsoft and Google, as the two power players of hosted messaging, have had some widely publicized failures in uptime. These are the real fears that keep businesses deploying Microsoft Exchange Server on-premises, where the IT department can control the data.

In the latest poll on the Windows IT Pro Exchange & Outlook page, I asked, "How would you describe the makeup of your Exchange Server organization?" Here are the results:

  • 50% On-premises, on physical hardware
  • 18% On-premises, partly physical, partly virtualized
  • 29% On-premises, wholly virtualized
  • 1% Partly on-premises, partly in the cloud
  • 1% Wholly in the cloud
  • 1% Other

Is anybody really surprised by these results? Well, actually, I'm a bit surprised. I mean, I knew not to expect the cloud option to receive a high percentage, but I certainly thought to see more than 1 percent, or 2 percent if you include the hybrid cloud/on-premises possibility.

Microsoft and everyone else continues to talk about the cloud as the great savior for businesses—save money, save hassle, save your soul, apparently, if you just move your IT systems to the cloud. And every time I ask a question to IT pros about what they're actually doing in their environments, the cloud option is a no-show.

Is there a disconnect between what Microsoft and other vendors are pushing and what businesses find they really need? Or do businesses resist this change because it's something that's different and seems out of their control? You'll have to tell me. I do think it's worth looking at what the cloud has to offer, even if you ultimately find it doesn't meet the needs of your organization—at least for now. In "Exchange 2010 Architecture: Microsoft's Jon Orton Talks About Exchange Online," Jon Orton lays out some compelling reasons to trust your messaging to Microsoft's cloud. Virtualization wasn't exactly an overnight success, but we can see from the above poll results that many organizations have found a place for it in their Exchange Server environments, helped of course by Microsoft coming through with official support policies. Maybe cloud computing will have its day yet.

If you're in a position where you might need to learn more about what the cloud has to offer for your IT department, you might want to consider attending the upcoming Cloud Connections conference in April. You'll find lots of sessions on security and identity management as well as setting up cloud architecture. There are also sessions specific to Exchange Server co-existence scenarios and Office 365, and the speakers and keynoters are all experts in the field. Even if you were never a Boy Scout, you've got to appreciate their motto, "Be Prepared." Learning all you can about messaging in the cloud could someday be a career differentiator for you.

What reasons do you have for avoiding moving your messaging systems to the cloud? Or for using virtualization? I'd love to hear how you made your decisions.

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