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Hosted Exchange - The Decision to Outsource

Posted Nov 28 2010 4:03pm

It is budget season again. If you are a little like me you are looking over your budget for the next year and amazed at the mix of resources moving to supporting existing systems and the small pool to drive or achieve the new business objectives and outcomes. It is time to look at things with a bit more critical eye. We have been in a crisis for a while, and the key to running an Information Services department demands focusing upon those things that are critical and contributing to help the business grow. There are places to focus resources and maybe places where resources can be better utilized. There are a couple of systems, process and technology which we are just managing because we always have. Perhaps, It is time to look to break the model up a bit. When considering to move a system from managed within to managed outside, there are three key points which must be considered. Is the system mission critical, is the tradeoff of risk versus reward, and how can you make the move appear transparent to your customers? We will expand on all these as we look at the decision to outsource your email system.

There are places that may to some of the utility mission critical functions a bit better than you can do in house. Email is one of those applications. Email was probably the first enterprise wide application deployed. It was an offshoot of the network system; it may still be lotus notes, groupwise, or exchange 2003. It probably wasn't architected as a mission critical solution, however with time it developed into one, and with tight times, can you afford to have still have the business's communications running on legacy hardware and legacy software. Is an upgrade to Exchange 2010 in the capital requests? Will it win out over the ICD-10 Program or achieving the HITECH Stimulus? So here we have a mission critical application, consuming resources to keep it running of the technical staff and equipment. The good news is we do have options; we just have to break the mold a bit and consider outsourcing email. After all our business may not be to offer the best email system in the world, we can buy that from someone and then offer the best hospital information services in the world.

Outsourcing email is having another vendor manage a hosted exchange solution. Similar to the hosted applications currently viewed as Software as a Service. Someone else maintains and administers the systems. This means that your encryption, anti-spam, anti-virus, perimeter defense, blackberry exchange and email system is managed by a vendor. The entire email service is provided by another company.

This is not simply alleviating a potential risk, as there are risks on the other side of fence. One has to go back to the basics and consider the people, process, and technology currently in place for a self-managed exchange environment. Next it is time to consider what may be needed. We are trading in one level of complexity for another. For instance most exchange administrators are not skilled at vendor management or even patient with waiting for a ticket. What is written in stone and what can be leveraged and tweaked. These do-it themselves administrators know how to get the job done. In the new model, it may be best moving the email service to the other application teams who are skilled in vendor application management. The large scale enterprise administration will be a valued skill set for your other mission critical initiatives.

Infrastructure Orchestration is a nebulous term now a day. It reminds me a bit of all the instruments playing in concert in the youth orchestra. Truthfully with people, process, and technology we have components which need to work together. We have to evolve our processes and skills to move from managing it ourselves to working through a vendor for email service and consider the ripples in the pool. This will help you determine what part of the service you are willing to manage at what levels. After all will there be exemptions of email which just must be received which others think of as offensive and spam? Are there integration touchpoints and constraints which need to be handled? How will provisioning of email on the smart phone occur? What about accounts which are not actively used? The good news is this is a meaty re-engineering project. It is time to consider those things that are just because we have always done them this way to perhaps a better version of the mousetrap.

As we come to the end, hopefully you have a bit to think about. We will be exploring the way to move to a hosted exchange model over the next several months. The key things to keep in mind before deciding if outsourcing exchange is right for your organizations is to consider the mission critical aspect of email. What services are must have, and what are nice to have? How will you adapt your existing processes to work with an outsourced model? And is this an endeavor worth the effort?


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