A recent nonscientific Instant Poll on windowsitpro.com asked the question, "What is the primary mail server you support in your organization?" Here are the results:

30% Exchange Server 2007
64% Exchange Server 2003
2% Exchange 2000 Server
1% Exchange Server 5.5
4% Other
http://windowsitpro.com/Poll/Index.cfm?Action=PollResults&Q_ID=2160

These results seem to confirm pretty well what we’ve heard from our readers over the last six months to a year: More than twice as many of you are sticking with Exchange 2003. From the responses to previous poll questions and from reader feedback, the big reasons for not making the switch seem to be a desire to avoid the increasing complexity of Exchange management that comes with the multi-role Exchange 2007 (not to mention that whole PowerShell thing) and budget concerns due in part to the need to upgrade to 64-bit hardware. Those are good reasons, I can’t deny. Seems to me that Exchange 2007 has some great features to offer, but if you don’t need those features and Exchange 2003 is serving your needs, clearly there’s no incentive to upgrade.

One thing this question doesn’t address is how many of you manage a mixed environment of Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2003. And there might be good reasons for doing so; see, for example, “Deployment Blockers for Upgrading to Exchange Server 2007.” That mixed environment lets you introduce some of Exchange 2007’s new features, such as the Edge Transport role for message hygiene, at a lower cost than transitioning your whole organization, but it undoubtedly adds complexity to your management. I’m curious to know how many of the poll respondents who answered either Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2003 as their primary mail server are actually running a mixed environment, as well as some of the management concerns this adds for you.

Exchange Server is certainly the dominant mail server in operation—and probably slightly more so in our Windows IT Pro audience than in all organizations generally. But there’s a vocal minority out there looking for Exchange alternatives even in the Windows world. In his November Everything But Microsoft column in Windows IT Pro, Jeff James plans to write about the Exchange-alternative market, so keep your eyes out for that article. In the meantime, here are a few alternatives you might want to consider:

“Groupware Alternatives to Microsoft Exchange”
“Kerio MailServer 6.1”
“PostPath Offers a Linux-based Exchange Alternative”
“What's Hot: Reader Review SmarterMail 5.x”

If you’ve used any of these products—or a different Exchange alternative—we’d love to hear about it. What made you pick the one you did, and how has it performed? You can help other readers who are struggling with such decisions.

Another question that comes to mind, with the next Exchange release perhaps little more than a year away, is how many of you plan to investigate and possibly switch to that version when it’s released? Will organizations already on Exchange 2007 be more inclined to switch (because, presumably, they’ve already got the hardware in place), or will Exchange 2003 admins feel it’s time to leapfrog when they get the chance? Ah, perhaps that’s the source of a future poll question . . .

Post a comment if you’d like to continue the discussion.