I wanted to point out the results of the December poll we ran on the WindowsITPro.com home page for the question "Would you consider using Microsoft Exchange Online to host your company's messaging services?" Here are those results from 187 respondents: 

  • 26% Absolutely
  • 43% Never
  • 31% Not sure

After about a year of build-up, Microsoft put Exchange Online and SharePoint Online into general release in November 2008. As you can see, there are still more people completely opposed to Microsoft's hosted solution than jumping on the bandwagon—but 26 percent actually doesn't seem like a bad start for acceptance.

And that's a large percentage sitting in the undecided camp. What will tip the balance for these folks? Do you need to wait and see how successfully Microsoft runs this service over a longer period of time? Are there budget concerns in your organization that need to be resolved before making any decisions? Are there security issues still to investigate?

It's interesting to compare these poll results with a similar one we ran a little over a year ago asking "Is hosted Microsoft Exchange something you would consider for your organization?"

  • 7% We already use hosted Exchange
  • 15% Yes, it's worth investigating
  • 19% Not sure
  • 59% No, doesn't meet our needs

Note that this older poll wasn't specific to Microsoft Exchange Online, but refers to any hosted Exchange Server solution. Still, it appears that people are moving to a greater acceptance of at least considering hosted solutions. The more recent poll certainly has a larger percentage of respondents who simply aren't sure, and a lower percentage of those firmly in the anti–hosted solution camp.

You hear it everywhere—that messaging is the one truly mission critical business application. That being the case, how does that affect your willingness to outsource your messaging needs? Do you want to make it an SEP (someone else's problem, in Douglas Adams–speak) so that at least when problems occur, you have someone outside to blame? Or do you feel more comfortable having direct control over your whole messaging environment?

It's interesting to consider how all the talk about cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) is changing the perception of these types of services. Initially, hosted services were talked about primarily as of interest to small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs), and now it seems that enterprises are also seriously considering or actually moving their systems to the cloud. The current economic climate might be having a big impact here because hosted services give you predictable monthly costs.

But not everyone is ready for the cloud—check out some of the reader comments on Paul Thurott's "Windows SBS 2008 vs. MOS: It's Time for the Cloud." And you certainly want to be sure that any service you choose can deliver what they promise. Paul Robichaux's commentary "When SaaS Goes Bad" addresses some things to look out for in hosted messaging.

Tons of predictions tell us that cloud computing is the future, but it seems there are some significant details that still need to be worked out to make people feel confident in handing over their data. Feel free to post a comment if you'd like to continue the discussion of any of these trends.

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