Every month, I hear from dozens of messaging vendors about the latest developments in their products. Their pitches essentially always boil down to this message: Our product or service will make an Exchange administrator's job easier. Some areas of messaging administration, most notably antivirus/antispam management, have gotten so complicated that outsourcing these tasks to a service provider such as Postini or AppRiver's SecureTide makes sense and is practically a necessity for small businesses with bare-bones IT staffs. Antispam/antivirus services are the most familiar example of a function that's being removed from the messaging administrator's domain, but they're by no means the only one. Companies such as Azaleos and MessageLabs, as well as those previously mentioned, provide managed email services, such as archiving, backup and recovery, and high availability in addition to security functions. Other vendors provide appliances and/or services to handle specialized tasks, such as archiving and retrieval and disaster recovery/high availability. A third class of Exchange-management product automates troubleshooting—presumably so you can spend time on all those other tasks (those that you haven't outsourced or automated, at least).

When I talk to these vendors, I always ask, "Who's the ideal customer for this product?" For the all-in-one services, the answer is often small-to-midsized businesses or branch offices. For the more specialized products, the answer varies, but the assumption behind such products is the same: Exchange administration is getting too complex for IT to handle. It's a given, of course, that a vendor will work to convince you that you have a need that only his or her product can fill. But is administering an Exchange environment really getting too complex? And how does managing your messaging environment—servers, clients, mobile devices, and users—compare with doing so, say, a year ago and then five years ago? Are the vendors right: Do you now need outside help with certain messaging admin tasks that you used to handle easily in IT? Are there some tasks, such as security, that IT should simply let someone else handle? Email me and share your thoughts about this topic. I'll publish your comments in next month's Exchange & Outlook Pro VIP Update.

Have a great month!