Will the Cloud Work for my Company’s Email Needs?

As an experienced IT consultant in the DC metro area, Network Depot frequently advises its clients on the benefits and drawbacks of using the cloud vs. a server for their various IT requirements.

For more general information about what the cloud is and the various types of cloud options available, please see our earlier blog post: Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance to Save Thousands

In this blog post, we will compare using the cloud vs. a dedicated server for Email needs. When considering this decision for your business, it is first useful to think about what company information is housed or “lives” on a server.  There are three general functions (one being Email) companies require with their corresponding data normally housed on a server, whether it is located at your location or whether it is located in the cloud; which means on a server at an offsite data center location.

Types of Data Housed on a Server (on-premise or at offsite data center server in the cloud)


The most widespread Email program used by companies is Outlook. Businesses using their own dedicated server for Outlook use an Exchange Server.

File Storage

Companies utilize a shared company drive(s) to store files from various applications such as Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Adobe, photos and images, and other important company documents. The files are normally housed in user-specific or department-specific folders with titles such as Sales, HR, and Marketing with folder permissioning applied in varying degrees.

Business Applications

Common business applications include Office, accounting programs such as Quickbooks and Great Plains, and CRM programs.  There are also custom-built business applications, which present special challenges for data migration to updated dedicated servers on-premise or to the cloud.

Main Factors to Evaluate when Considering the Cloud

When thinking about the use of the Cloud for your Email requirements vs. the use of a dedicated server, your company needs to look at these main factors:

Company Size and Cost

The cloud is appealing to small businesses because there is a substantial cost for purchasing and maintaining a dedicated server. Servers generally need to be replaced within 5 years, which gives a good starting point for comparison as the cost of the server can be spread out over that time period. However, there is also the additional cost and inconvenience of fixing any problems with the server and other purchased hardware through in-house or outsourced IT support. The system must also be properly updated, which costs time and money.  There is also the licensing cost for use of the Email software. In short, a company must be prepared to pay for the cost of labor, set-up, and maintenance of the server. On the positive side, however, if a company already owns and uses its own server for its file storage and/or business applications, it can easily use it for Email as well. The cost per user when using the cloud generally starts to be less attractive than a dedicated server when the company has 30 or more mailboxes.

Sensitivity of Data

The issue of control and security is most important to companies, which have sensitive information flowing through their Emails. In these circumstances, most companies would prefer to have their own dedicated server controlling their Email usage.

Importance of Internet Access

With the use of a dedicated exchange server or through use of the cloud, your company will have access to your Email anywhere/anytime. To use the dedicated server or the cloud to access your Email effectively, your company must make certain that your internet connection is dependable. If your company doesn’t want to spend the money on a dedicated server, but Email is critical for its services, it is advisable to invest more funds to ensure that you have an extremely reliable and high-bandwidth internet connection.


In our experience we have found that the best solution for small companies is usually all cloud or a hybrid of Email, some applications, and some file storage on the cloud with any sensitive data housed on a dedicated server.  Companies generally feel more comfortable using the cloud for Email as the cloud is more mature for Email requirements than for business applications or file storage.

The upward trend of more companies using purely the cloud and hybrid models will increase as cloud service providers continue to offer more bundled features and applications for their subscription service and as prices for cloud services continue to decrease.

In summary, there are advantages and disadvantages to using the cloud vs. a dedicated server for your Email needs. Your company must take the time to carefully assess your unique Email requirements before making your decision.

For assistance in making your decision with this and any other IT-related requirements, please contact us here at Network Depot.

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Time and experience has helped us develop best practices and workflow procedures around a proactive philosophy designed to keep your focus on your business, not your technology.

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