In the cloud era, what’s the role of Exchange 2019?

Naturally, plenty of organization want to keep mail on premises, but there are a few other reasons, too.

Despite the growing popularity of Office 365, Microsoft announced the Exchange 2019 public preview in late July, and it should hit GA later this year. (You can download the preview here.) So, what does this release mean for customers? Specifically, who will have the desire to upgrade Exchange on premises, and why? Let’s discuss!

On premises or online? That is the question

If your enterprise still runs Exchange on premises, I suspect that you may already be talking about moving to the cloud. But some organizations are obvious candidates to keep Exchange on prem.

In the US (where I’ll focus today), as you might guess, it’s primarily government and healthcare entities that stay on premises. Many have security concerns, but their reasons for staying on premises also revolve around the need for a 99.999% SLA, which is achievable with a properly-designed architecture. Whereas, in Office 365, the general statement regarding SLA’s is that you will get approximately 99.99% uptime.

Some organizations have already moved to Exchange Online through hybrid migration. However, hybrid migration requires that you maintain one or two Exchange servers on premises, in order to ensure that some mailbox and distribution group management can be maintained long term. (All mailboxes are in the cloud, though.) These servers are likely to get upgraded to 2019.

Lastly, I’m surprised by the number of small businesses that choose to deploy Exchange on premises for their 10-user-and-up deployments. I think we will see them shift to the cloud, too, so they can to avoid maintaining old hardware and older versions of Exchange. I also find that SMBs often do not maintain these environments correctly, so that when a problem arises, it results in a severe loss of data—yet another reason for them to shift.

What changes can organizations moving to Exchange 2019 expect?

Exchange 2019 is very similar to past versions, with two primary differences:

First, you can install Exchange 2019 on Windows 2019 Server Core. Server Core is a command-line-only interface without the Windows GUI; only certain features can run, making it more secure than traditional Windows. Big win! 

The other big change is that Unified Messaging (UM) is gone. I believe that Microsoft underestimated how impactful this would be for on-premises customers. So, what will customers need to do? They can go with a third-party solution, deploy Office 365 in the cloud, or use Exchange 2016. Just remember that mainstream support for Exchange 2016 is expected to end October 13, 2020, and extended support October 14, 2025.

Wrapping up

In the end, there are just a few primary reasons to move to Exchange 2019. Other than that, at first glance, there don’t appear to be many other big reasons to move to it, but maybe spending more time with the public preview will unearth additional reasons for its existence.

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