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If you work in a Small and Mid Size business (SME) there is a big chance that you are sending, receiving emails and sharing contacts/tasks/calendars on hosted exchange or Webmail powered email hosting solution. But what are the differences between hosted exchange and Webmail and what is the best option for your business?

Most SMEs usually don’t have the time, a large IT budget or technical staff to implement and maintain an entire in-house email server infrastructure. Other factors such as costs are usually the main reasons why hosted exchange or Webmail email hosting is becoming more and more popular. By using hosted exchange or Webmail from an email hosting provider your business don’t need to physical-in-house-on-site email servers.

Hosted Exchange is sometimes also called exchange hosting and is usually running on a Microsoft Exchange backend server. Using an email hosting provider you get peace of mind that your email system is always secure, backed up and up and running. Using a premier email hosting provider services also comes with high reliability and performance plus administration and 24/7/365 support. To summarise the main difference between hosted exchange and Webmail email hosting is that:
1. Webmail is a budget version of email hosting and
2. With Webmail you use a web browser to send, receive and review emails, i.e. you will need internet access to utilize Webmail.

Hosted Exchange

Hosted exchange is based on Microsoft’s latest exchange server with Microsoft outlook as your client. With Outlook you can do more than send and receive email, you can share calendars, folders and contacts. Outlook is available for desktop, browser and mobile access so you are always connected, whether you are in the office, on the road or working at home. You always connect to the same exchange server; therefore your inbox always stays synched in near-real time, no matter which Outlook client you are using.

In a hosted exchange environment, the hosting provider owns and is responsible for the data centre, network, devices, operating system and application infrastructure components. In short, the hosting provider is responsible for providing a stable operating environment for every application used. Your own IT organisation manages the applications and maintains full control over the applications infrastructure and business process. In contrast with in-house-on-site email servers you need to provide maintenance and have anti-virus subscription and security update upgrades. You’ll need to purchase a new server approximately every 5 years and you will have slow access from outside of the office. You also need to invest in server hardware, server software licensing, exchange enterprise software and Blackberry server software. Finally you’ll need to hire a consultant to install software and perform maintenance/upgrades. Having a hosted exchange solution mean you don’t have to pay through the nose for expensive in-house servers, software licenses, employing IT staff to install and maintain the infrastructure, or being responsible for a 24/7 infrastructure.

Webmail

Webmail gives you “anywhere, anytime”, emails, calendars, contacts and task lists. It’s intended to be as powerful as a desktop client, such as Outlook. The only limitation is that you need is a web browser and an internet connection. You can access email from Outlook, BlackBerry, Webmail, or any other email client or wireless device with absolutely no maintenance on your end. Webmail email hosting is a budget email hosting solution, but nonetheless it delivers great functionality for small businesses. A Webmail service takes away complexities of installing and maintaining an in-house email solution and at the same time offers the latest anti-spam, anti-virus and security technologies. Webmail is an email hosting solution that is perfect for businesses that have somewhat limited in-house budgets for IT expenses, limited IT resources to support an email environment and businesses that need the latest spam and virus protection.

Hosted exchange or Webmail - What’s best for you?

What are the main differences between hosted exchange and Webmail? In summary hosted exchange is a more sophisticated solution with more shared options and is more widely deployed, on the other hand Webmail is gaining market share easily accessible and is of course a cheaper solution than hosted exchange. Below is a brief explanation of what the differences are - in terms of ability to share contacts, tasks and calendar - between hosted exchange and Webmail email hosting.

Share contacts

Shared contacts are usually available with the hosted exchange option. Other users can be granted access to edit your contacts. Usually there is no ability for shared contacts with the Webmail option. Other users cannot have access to edit your contacts.

Share tasks

You can usually share tasks among users with hosted exchange. You have the ability to assign a task to other users. You can select the users you want to invite and automatically see the best times to meet. Collaboration with tasks among users is usually not available with the Webmail option. You cannot assign a task to someone else and you have to manually find everyone’s schedule before you agree to set up a meeting.

Share calendar

Exchange usually allows you to delegate read/write capabilities with the hosted exchange option, i.e. you can have an assistant create events for you. Events can have different statuses and colours on your calendar (i.e. out of office, on holiday, business etc.). No delegation capabilities can be given to other users with the Webmail option, so your assistant cannot create events for you. Only read access can be given. Categories of events are not available (personal, out of office, on holiday etc.) and all calendar events are displayed in the same colour.

Rackspace provide Microsoft Exchange Email Hosting with 100% Uptime. Article on explaining Email Hosting.

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