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The real ROI of Exchange

Your return on investment checklist for Exchange 2003 should reach beyond the financials and delve into the technical benefits that provide a better total return, according to one expert.

CHICAGO -- If you are among the thousands of IT professionals who need to decide when, and if, to migrate from Exchange 5.5 or 2000 to Exchange 2003, you should look beyond the financial investment and hone in on the features of Exchange 2003 that will benefit your enterprise.

"The rule is, 80% of the users use 20% of the features," said Paul Robichaux, author of Secure Messaging with Exchange Server 2003 and a featured speaker at the recent Enterprise Messaging Decisions 2004 conference. "There are going to be features in Exchange 2003 you aren't going to care about. As you go through the process of ROI, think about the features that are important to you," he said.

Robichaux also added that Microsoft isn't necessarily helping some users with their migration decision-making

The rule is, 80% of the users use 20% of the features.

Paul Robichaux, Exchange expert

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process. "Microsoft could have more openness about what's happening in the future. They are scaring people from upgrading now by talking about a future release," he said.

That wasn't the case for Paul East, information technology manager for Conforma Clad Inc., a provider of severe-wear solutions for fabricated metal components in New Albany, Ind. East recently upgraded from 5.5 to Exchange 2003, saying that it was the best choice for his company, since they have seven Microsoft servers.

"We try to simplify our lives as much as possible, but you have to think about the end users," East said. "We went with Exchange 2003 for robustness, it's [an industry] standard, and for its tools."

Robichaux also focused on the improved tools in Exchange 2003 when mentioning the benefits of the latest version of Exchange. In addition to better performance, security and mobility support, he encouraged managers to consider the improved manageability of the technology and its rich ecosystem with a wide range of partners and independent software vendors.

How these features transfer

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to each organization is unique, however. For example, Exchange 2003 will mean lower total hardware costs for most users, Robichaux said, because its site consolidation can lead to a reduction in server counts. He added, however, that individual servers may be larger and cost more to acquire, and that this claim needs careful analysis.

Robichaux's verdict on whether deploying Exchange 2003 will result in higher productivity for employees: "yes," with an immediate ROI impact. "The productivity improvements you see are features that are built into Outlook and built in the client," he said.

But one of the biggest questions about Exchange is: Will your downtime decrease? This is unclear, Robichaux said. Exchange 2003 offers several pros, including more robustness than earlier versions, faster recovery through MicrosoftVisual SourceSafe) and the Recovery Storage Group and better clustering. But one negative, he said, is that consolidation can mean bigger servers that translate into longer recovery times.

"The bottom line is, Exchange 2003 is a valuable upgrade but only you can decide if it's right for your organization," Robichaux said.

TechTarget is the organizer of Enterprise Messaging Decisions 2004 and owner of the family of Web sites that includes SearchExchange.com.

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