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Do I Upgrade My Microsoft Exchange Server or Move to a Hosted Exchange Environment such as Office 365?

 

You’ve been successfully using Microsoft Exchange for years to manage your electronic communications but realize it’s time to upgrade to increase server space, upgrade technology and/or enhance security against breaches. But, does it make more sense to move to a hosted Exchange environment such as Office 365?

 

Unfortunately, Microsoft discontinued selling Windows Small Business Server in late 2013, which included Exchange at no additional cost. This leaves the small and medium-sized business with a significantly more costly on-premise solution. They must purchase a dedicated server and license the full stand alone version Microsoft Exchange Server 2016.

 

Upfront costs will most likely deter many smaller businesses to upgrade to the latest Exchange Server because of the physical server cost as well as the Microsoft licensing expense, not to mention the additional space, power and IT resources required to manage servers.   In comparison, per-user licensing fees for Office 365 range from $4 to $20, depending upon subscription plans. While no exact number of employees warrants a move to a hosted exchange environment, businesses with less than 50 users typically have an easier decision and are more likely to make the move to the cloud. Larger organizations have to put a bit more thought into it as they weight the pros and cons and financial implications of either solution.

 

But every company has preferences and requirements for its IT operations. Here are some factors that can help you make the decision between an in-house upgrade and a hosted solution:

 

  • Cost and Control:  An on-premise Microsoft Exchange Server is ideal for companies that want to maintain in-house control of emails and a higher level of customization than offered from an “out-of-the-box” solution. Although Office 365 enterprise level plans do offer powershell access for your IT team. An on-premise solution does require a major investment in hardware and software and the IT resources to maintain it. An upgrade to Exchange Server 2016 typically requires a new robust server that will meet the sizing and prerequisite requirements to support a successful install.  Moving to a hosted Exchange plan does not require hardware expenditures because data centers are maintained by the vendor. While costs are based on a predictable monthly subscription, different configuration options can effect pricing including mailbox size, storage preference, and performance levels. Other services such as SharePoint, archiving and office applications can be bundled easily into the package to support a wider range of company processes.

 

  • Security: Data breaches into corporate email are reported on almost a weekly basis. That’s why many companies fear the “cloud” and want to secure emails in their own environments. But, many security breaches actually start within the organization where employees access confidential emails.   To protect the in-house infrastructure, organizations must maintain a certain level of physical and digital security. Servers should be monitored round-the-clock with platforms continuously updated with the latest spam and virus solutions.  In a hosted environment, an advanced level of security is built into the environment. Microsoft Office 365 data centers continually obtain 3rd party audit certifications A team of security experts also monitor Exchange Online on a 24/7 basis.

 

  • Current Technology: Even if operations are running great at the moment, companies with an in-house Exchange platform must consider the future and plan for software and hardware upgrades down the road. A hosted solution maintains the latest software version as upgrades are automatic and built into subscription costs.

 

  • Reliability and Availability: Reports that small and mid-sized companies with in-house messaging solutions 40 hours of unplanned outages  Without a disaster recovery or backup plan. If your server is not built on a highly available architecture, which cost prohibitive in many small businesses, the risk of downtime is far greater than with Office 365. With globally redundant servers and disaster recovery services, Microsoft reports a 99.9% uptime with Exchange Online.

 

Small businesses have a lot to think about when deciding the next move to either upgrade or move to the cloud. To continue the discussion, feel free to contact me at www.nettology.net/contact

Nettology Microsoft Exchange server
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Migrate Exchange 2003: Urgent and Harder Than You Think

This should be a busy time for organizations using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.  All support ended on April 8, 2014, and not even security patches are being released.  But there are still more than 60 million mailboxes running Exchange 2003 at small-to-medium-sized businesses, and that represents an attractive target to malicious hackers.

So….if your business or non-profit is still using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 — it’s time to switch!

But it may not be something you want to do on your own.  There are quite a few steps involved in carrying out an Exchange 2003 migration.  For one thing, you cannot perform an in-place upgrade to Exchange 2013 because you can’t have Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2013 in a single Active Directory forest.

You may consider moving to Exchange 2010 and stopping there, or using that as a way-station to upgrade to Exchange 2013.  But each upgrade involves more than half a dozen steps and can take days.  That leads some people to decide now is the time to move to Office 365 in the cloud.

Whether you move your email to the cloud or stay on-premise, there’s a lot to plan out and a lot that can go wrong.  If you’d like to have an experienced engineer by your side for advice— or to just take care of your Exchange 2003 migration project completely— give us a call here at Nettology on 610-558-1730. We’ve done projects with more than 3000 users and others with fewer than 10. Either way, you can be sure your Exchange migration will be done correctly.

Besides Exchange 2003, other outdated or very-soon-to-be-outdated Microsoft packages include Exchange 2010 Service Pack 2, Office 2003, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. If you are using any of this software, now is the time to upgrade or migrate.

Need more info on migrating Exchange 2003 ?

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Nettology is a certified Microsoft Partner
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The Small Business Network Consultant is Dead

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant

As an IT infrastructure consultant, I have had the opportunity to work on many small to mid market corporate networks. From rock solid and secure (although is anything really secure these days?) to really shoddy excuses for a business network. My job as a small business network network consultants is to help – to be able to look at both the big picture functionality and efficiency of the network as well as the details of what makes it work properly and securely or not to so securely (as I have come to find all too often). There is a certain confidence you get when you can actually see the datacenter, the physical security and the underlying hardware on which precious company data is housed. Having the ability to look at that Cisco ASA firewall, observe all the green lights on your EMC SAN or HP server array hard drives, and know that you have built so much redundancy into the Client and you have covered all your bases should there be an issue is what I thrive on. It’s a good feeling knowing that if you can sleep at night because their data is protected then your Client can rest easy also.

Enter Cloud Computing and its inevitable revolution of providing “As a Service” for everything including your refrigerator. Say goodbye to the traditional “Small Business Network Consultant” at least as we know it. Why put a “Microsoft Small Business Server” in your office for thousands of dollars when you can pay monthly for more services and flexibility? (Maybe one reason is because the Microsoft Small business server does not exist anymore – but we wont go there just yet.)

A sad truth is many organizations (even startups) are now bypassing the small business network network consultant and spinning up servers by reading directions on the hosting companies website. OK so not everyone can do this but if you are even slightly tech savvy you can get through some of the wizards and viola – you have a server and you did not have to pay a consultant!! Pretty cool huh – that you had your web developer put up a database and file server for you in the cloud and your livelihood is running on it!

Well on the surface that may have been a good cost saving business decision but wait there’s more ……..

There is a very scary part to this scenario that I have observed over the last two years. Companies are bypassing traditional common sense security practices assuming that the servers and databases the put up in the cloud are secure. Because they skipped over the “network design and consulting” step basic security principles are not being followed. There are major assumptions about the underlying hardware and redundancy (or lack of) provided by the hosting provider. I have seen companies that are doing business with fortune 100 companies that do not have any firewall or intrusion detection solution, and have servers that have no business being public facing with dangerous and unnecessary ports open to the outside world. I have seen servers are built with zero redundancy. Companies have invested tens of thousands of dollars on application development and customization but yet they have no methodology for backing up the images of these servers. While the hosting company they are using provides various services including firewalls, imaging, and high availability, they are not implemented. Entire architectures have been built with significant “single points of failure”. The basic building blocks of traditional network security and efficiency are being skipped because it was easy and inexpensive to do, and these folks clearly were not given proper direction. Unfortunately this is not just one company, I am seeing this over and over again.

We can’t just lay blame on the companies (well maybe). Are we a dying breed or has the Small Business Network Consultant not adapted quickly enough to the Cloud paradigm? We can’t just sit on that MCSE Certification from 10 years ago and hope none of our clients “catch on to this whole cloud thing”. Consultants need to educate themselves to truly consult in this rapidly changing environment. There is an immense amount of cloud based infrastructure technology out there to learn and the industry is maturing quickly. Amazon Web Services has developed an entire curriculum and certification program around their services. Microsoft is modifying many of their partner competencies and certifications to adapt to their Azure and Office 365 service offerings. There are also many third party solutions are out there that fill the gaps missing from the hosting providers.

Good small business network network consultants are desperately needed to right the ships of many companies that have strayed into uncharted clouds. So if you are an IT Consultant that has lost your way, get it in gear, start learning, and start consulting again! And if you are a Business Owner or IT Director in the midst of making decisions on Cloud infrastructure, call your friendly neighborhood IT Consultant.

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant – Be it Dead or Alive!

Nettology MSP and consultants
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The Small Business Network Consultant is Dead

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant

As an IT infrastructure business network consultant, I have had the opportunity to work on many small to mid market corporate networks. From rock solid and secure (although is anything really secure these days?) to really shoddy excuses for a business network. My job is to help – to be able to look at both the big picture functionality and efficiency of the network as well as the details of what makes it work properly and securely or not to so securely (as I have come to find all too often). There is a certain confidence you get when you can actually see the datacenter, the physical security and the underlying hardware on which precious company data is housed. Having the ability to look at that Cisco ASA firewall, observe all the green lights on your EMC SAN or HP server array hard drives, and know that you have built so much redundancy into the Client and you have covered all your bases should there be an issue is what I thrive on. It’s a good feeling knowing that if you can sleep at night because their data is protected then your Client can rest easy also.

Enter Cloud Computing and its inevitable revolution of providing “As a Service” for everything including your refrigerator. Say goodbye to the traditional “Small Business Network Consultant” at least as we know it. Why put a “Microsoft Small Business Server” in your office for thousands of dollars when you can pay monthly for more services and flexibility? (Maybe one reason is because the Microsoft Small business server does not exist anymore – but we wont go there just yet.)

A sad truth is many organizations (even startups) are now bypassing the Consultant and spinning up servers by reading directions on the hosting companies website. OK so not everyone can do this but if you are even slightly tech savvy you can get through some of the wizards and viola – you have a server and you did not have to pay a consultant!! Pretty cool huh – that you had your web developer put up a database and file server for you in the cloud and your livelihood is running on it!

Well on the surface that may have been a good cost saving business decision but wait there’s more ……..

There is a very scary part to this scenario that I have observed over the last two years. Companies are bypassing traditional common sense security practices assuming that the servers and databases the put up in the cloud are secure. Because they skipped over the “network design and consulting” step basic security principles are not being followed. There are major assumptions about the underlying hardware and redundancy (or lack of) provided by the hosting provider. I have seen companies that are doing business with fortune 100 companies that do not have any firewall or intrusion detection solution, and have servers that have no business being public facing with dangerous and unnecessary ports open to the outside world. I have seen servers are built with zero redundancy. Companies have invested tens of thousands of dollars on application development and customization but yet they have no methodology for backing up the images of these servers. While the hosting company they are using provides various services including firewalls, imaging, and high availability, they are not implemented. Entire architectures have been built with significant “single points of failure”. The basic building blocks of traditional network security and efficiency are being skipped because it was easy and inexpensive to do, and these folks clearly were not given proper direction. Unfortunately this is not just one company, I am seeing this over and over again.

We can’t just lay blame on the companies (well maybe). Are we a dying breed or has the Small Business Network Consultant not adapted quickly enough to the Cloud paradigm? We can’t just sit on that MCSE Certification from 10 years ago and hope none of our clients “catch on to this whole cloud thing”. Consultants need to educate themselves to truly consult in this rapidly changing environment. There is an immense amount of cloud based infrastructure technology out there to learn and the industry is maturing quickly. Amazon Web Services has developed an entire curriculum and certification program around their services. Microsoft is modifying many of their partner competencies and certifications to adapt to their Azure and Office 365 service offerings. There are also many third party solutions are out there that fill the gaps missing from the hosting providers.

Good network consultants are desperately needed to right the ships of many companies that have strayed into uncharted clouds. So if you are an IT Consultant that has lost your way, get it in gear, start learning, and start consulting again! And if you are a Business Owner or IT Director in the midst of making decisions on Cloud infrastructure, call your friendly neighborhood IT Consultant.

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant – Be it Dead or Alive!

small business network consultant
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RAID – the data storage technology you need but didn’t know existed

Data storage is a crucial part of your IT infrastructure.  Today we’ll cover the basics of a very important data storage technology called RAID.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. RAID is a system that improves performance, reliability and fault tolerance for a networked attached storage (NAS) device or the hard disk of a server/workstation. In general, the server/workstation or NAS device will contain a RAID controller that manages an array of disks. These disks are used to mirror or copy data at the same time in different locations. There is also software RAID that does not require a RAID controller. Even though RAID does provide redundancy for your system, another backup method should always be implemented for your business as well. There are different types/levels of RAID that focus on performance, fault tolerance or both and, for those real geeks among us, these are listed out below.

For those of you who’d just like to know that someone has your back and will help you protect your crucial business data, contact us here at Nettology.  We’re based in suburban Philadelphia and can design, configure, install, and support a data storage solution that’s right for your business.

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And now for those REALLY interested in RAID….

  • RAID 0— Striping without parity, improved performance, additional storage, no fault tolerance
  • RAID 1— Mirroring without parity, fault tolerance for disk errors and single disk failures. Minimum number of drives: 2
  • RAID 5— Striping with distributed parity, improved performance, fault tolerance for disk errors and single disk failures. Minimum number of drives: 3
  • RAID 6— Striping with dual parity, fault tolerance for dual drive failures. Minimum number of drives: 4
  • RAID 10— Mirroring combined with striping, better performance, fault tolerance for disk errors and multiple drive failure (one drive failure per mirror set). Minimum number of drives: 4
  • RAID 50— Combines multiple RAID-5 sets with striping, improved performance, fault disk errors and multiple drive failures (one drive failure per span). Minimum number of drives: 6
  • RAID 60— Combines multiple RAID-6 sets with striping, improved performance, fault disk errors and multiple drive failures (two drive failures per span). Minimum number of drives: 8

 

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small business server consultant
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Security risks in Windows Server and Exchange 2003

Huge security risks in
Windows Server and Exchange 2003
It’s time to move on!
 This is a special security alert from Nettology

All support for Exchange 2003 has ended and support for Windows Server 2003 is ending soon, even for security patches.  Here’s how it affects you:

  • Windows Server 2003 support is ending July 14, 2015. There will be no security patches or updates.
  • If you are still using Exchange 2003 for email, you are at additional risk. Microsoft stopped support last year for Exchange 2003.
  • Your network infrastructure and sensitive information is at risk if you are still using Windows Server 2003 or Exchange 2003.
  • Security flaws found by hackers will not be patched – leaving your computer defenseless, even if you have an antivirus or anti-spyware program installed.

If you are still running Windows Server 2003 or Exchange Server 2003 in your data center, you need to take steps now to plan and execute an exchange migration strategy to protect these critical parts of your IT infrastructure.

From our office in Media, PA in suburban Philadelphia, Nettology can help you migrate to Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft Azure, or Office 365.  You’ll gain better security, improved performance, and reduced maintenance requirements. Nettology provides expert IT advice to help you choose the best solution for your business.

 

It security risks
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