Troubleshooter—Outsourcing Pros and Cons

What are the pros and cons of outsourcing my company's Exchange server to a third-party email firm?

Over the past several years, more companies have begun outsourcing what used to be regarded as core business functions, including payroll, accounting, and IT. Application service providers (ASPs) claim to be able to offer you better messaging service than you can build yourself—for less than it would cost you to do it. This claim might seem counterintuitive: How can someone else do more for less than it would cost you? The answer, of course, is volume. With a lot of servers, a robust infrastructure, and a lot of (presumably) trained people, an ASP might be able to do a better job than you can. In addition, an ASP might be able or willing to provide services that are outside your company's budget range, comfort zone, or competence level.

The cons? When you outsource your Exchange infrastructure, you're ceding control over a critical business system to an outside group. This step requires that you put a lot of trust in the ASP's ability to offer a secure, reliable mail system. If the ASP is guaranteeing a particular service level, make sure you understand what happens if the ASP fails to meet that level. If the ASP won't guarantee a service level, be wary. Whatever you do, don't make the decision based solely on cost. As with so many other things, when you consider outsourcing Exchange you get, in large measure, what you pay for.

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