Exchange to the Cloud
Why the End of Support for SBS 2011 Marks the End of In-house Exchange for Small Business
-Chris Filippi, November, 2018
It’s hard to believe it’s only been 6 years since I was urging customers to replace their Windows 2003 Small Business Servers with the 2011 version to keep their Exchange data in-house. Back then, I warned “Microsoft wants you to put everything you do in Outlook on their servers, not yours.” This threat will come to fruition on January 14th, 2020.
This poses two immediate challenges to SBS 2011 users in 2019: migrate all your Exchange data and replace your SBS 2011 server.
As mentioned in my previous article, Microsoft stopped including Microsoft Exchange Server in their Small Business Server package with the release of Windows Server 2012 Essentials. Thus, if wanted to keep using Exchange, you had three choices:
- Get Small Business Server 2011 before time ran out
- Migrate your Exchange data to the cloud
- Get full-versions of Windows Server and Exchange
Back in 2013, option 2 was significantly more expensive than option 1, due to increased bandwidth requirements and high per-mailbox hosting costs. Option 3 was, and remains, radically more expensive, due to licensing costs plus additional hardware and maintenance.
Microsoft appears to be keeping their promise of ending support for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010 (the foundation of Small Business Server 2011) on January 14th, 2020. Thus, continuing to use these servers beyond that date poses a major security liability no business should take on. Furthermore, new versions of Microsoft Office will likely no longer support connectivity to Exchange 2010 and mobile devices are likely to follow.
Make no mistake – if Microsoft still offered Exchange bundled with a small business version of Windows Server, I would likely endorse it. If Microsoft was extending support for Exchange 2010 and Server 2008, I’d say keep it. If G-Suite or XO Office measured up to the capability and compatibility of Exchange, I’d say move it. The harsh reality is they haven’t, they won’t, and they don’t. Thus, unless ending your reliance on Exchange is a change you’re ready to make, Office365 and Exchange in the cloud is now your best option.
So, in essence, Microsoft has won. However, there is a bright side: due to massive competition in the Exchange hosting market, Office365 hosting costs less than half what it did in 2013. Additionally, internet bandwidth offerings have exploded in most areas, dramatically reducing the ancillary bandwidth requirements of hosting Exchange data outside your organization. Finally, the popularity of Office365 has spawned affordable and comprehensive migration tools to get your Exchange data to Office365 with minimal downtime and IT expenditure. These three critical factors make the move from your in-house Exchange on SBS 2011 to the cloud a lot more palatable.
To that end, there’s still the overlying reality that your Small Business Server needs to go (or be severely relegated) before the January 14th, 2020 deadline. This effectively means you should consider replacing your existing server with either Windows Server 2016 Essentials or Windows Server 2016 Standard. At this time, we cannot recommend Windows Server 2019 Essentials as it lacks client backup and Remote Web Access. Fortunately, your new server will likely cost less to buy and maintain than your current SBS 2011 server did. Despite the added cost of an Exchange hosting subscription, you will likely no longer need:
- Email antivirus and anti-spam software subscriptions
- Specialized backup software for Exchange
- Backup email accounts for when your server or internet connection is down
- Additional server resources for Exchange data
- SSL certificate renewals to keep Exchange securely accessible
- Potential vulnerabilities associated with hosting your own mail server
- Labor required to install Exchange patches and updates
In conclusion, the end of support for the key components of Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 marks two impending changes you need to make before 2020:
- Migrate your Exchange organization to the cloud
- Replace your SBS 2011 server
Additionally, if you still have computers running Windows 7, please see my other article 7’s Up: Goodbye Windows 7 as you’ll likely want to replace your Windows 7 workstations in conjunction with your server.