Who to host our small biz services on the interweb and stop SERVER DOWN!
February 8, 2013 12:18 PM   Subscribe

What would be the best type of provider (web-hosting, hosted exchange, cloud storage) for a small business with less than 20 employees? Would a company like Godaddy.com or our current phone and internet provider. We are currently with Cbeyond. It seems like it may be simpler to go with our phone provider but I feel like they are not really specialized in this type of thing and therefore maybe not as good or reliable. Also, we would like no more, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! WE HAVE NO EMAIL ACCESS. SERVER DOWN, I REPEAT SERVER DOWN!"

Here are some pretty basic details.

We are a company with offices in several states in the US and several countries in South America. The headquarters and server are in Denver, CO.

We are using a very old physical server running Microsoft Server 2003. It might die at any time.

I'd guess we are having email outages once every 6 weeks or so. Frequently these happen when we are closed, meaning that our offices several hours ahead lose email access for up to 5 hours on before any body at HQ can call our outside IT guy, then wait for him to come resolve the issue. This is the most pressing issue we are trying to resolve at this time.

Usually however, we can fix the problems by restarting the server when our office opens (how bad is that for a fix?), but Sao Paolo has still been incommunicado all morning.

We basically need reliability, decent customer service if there are any problems. We really only use a few exchange features; all the basic Outlook features, email forwarding. Web hosting and cloud storage will be brand new for us.

Lay your advice down on me and of course let us know of any other considerations or options not being considered in this post. Thanks!
posted by Che boludo! to Technology (7 answers total)
Response by poster: Somebody also has suggested Microsoft Office 365. Any thoughts here?
posted by Che boludo! at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2013

For filing sharing, use a service like Dropbox. For email, Google business apps. No reason to physically house your own server.
posted by dfriedman at 12:30 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Google Apps.
posted by ssg at 12:33 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Microsoft Office 365.

I use it, and frankly would be hesitant to recommend it to someone who wants to "set it and forget it", which, I might add, is not an unreasonable expectation for email. They don't offer phone support, and every now and then we run into quirky issues that require using PowerShell to fix. (like my phone email, which still isn't working).

It's fine enough and has great pricing, but is probably not a good fit for you.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:52 PM on February 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Very generic advice: Sounds like your company needs a better IT guy and should be prepared to pay a little more for something closer to an expert on the subject.
posted by cp7 at 12:57 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are you saying you want to have web hosting, hosted Exchange, and cloud storage all with the same provider? If so, why?
posted by Dansaman at 12:59 PM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Agree with cp7 on paying for a good local consultant. For instance, why don't you have monitoring on that Exchange server that calls your outside IT person when it goes down in the middle of the night? Additionally, you'll need somebody to migrate all those mailboxes and users off the old machine before it dies. Do you have backups? (IT joke: Have you tested your backups? No? Then you don't have backups.)

If you're happy with the phone service from CBeyond, consider them for Hosted Exchange. If not, the magic words you want are "Managed Service Provider" or "Hosted Exchange" -- put that and "Denver" into Google and make some calls. Local isn't really necessary but it's nice to have a local throat to choke.

For cloud storage you can use a MSP or somebody like Box. I'd stay away from a big hosting provider like GoDaddy for this kind of Managed Services. Although you have only 20 employees, the international remote offices bump you up in complexity.

The good news is that your old server hasn't died yet. It's a great time for a small business to switch to the cloud -- online services are cheaper and better than ever, and they tend to be much more reliable than the server in the closet, especially when you don't have a full-time IT person in house.

Since you are outsourcing a key business responsibility, you should take it as seriously as if you were hiring an IT person. Take a few meetings, get customer references, and don't go with anybody that you don't have a good gut on.
posted by troyer at 1:32 PM on February 8, 2013

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