Exchange Server 2003: The other end-of-life opportunity

Exchange Server 2013Much attention is being paid to the end of life of Microsoft  Corp.’s vaunted Windows XP operating system, which will lose support April 8. On the same day, Microsoft will discontinue support for another stalwart product, Exchange Server 2003, a workhorse of on-premises e-mail.

Microsoft faces a similar problem with Exchange Server 2003 as it does with Windows XP in that a large portion of its legacy install base still use the older system. Current market share numbers are difficult to come by. According to The Radicati Group, 85 percent of all corporate e-mail boxes are delivered via on-premises systems, and Microsoft dominants that market. According to various sources, as much as one-third of on-premises e-mail systems are Exchange Server 2003.

While cloud-based e-mail services have proliferated across the market and through the channel, the on-premises model will continue to dominate the landscape for the foreseeable future. However, according to Radicati, the proportion of cloud-based or hosted e-mail services will expand to one-quarter of the market by 2015.

The end of life for Exchange Server 2003 is a tremendous sales opportunity as e-mail continues as the mainstay of the business communication system. Despite advances and adoption in social media, businesses and users rely heavily on conventional e-mail for communications, collaboration and, in many cases, content management.

Microsoft is advising partners and customers to convert before Exchange Server 2003 reaches end of life. For customers preferring on-premises solutions, Microsoft is recommending upgrades to Exchange Server 2007, Exchange Server 2010 or some hybrid combination of the two. For customers exploring cloud as an alternative, Microsoft is recommending its Office 365 service, which includes managed and self-supported corporate e-mail.

Over the past year, Microsoft has seen explosive growth in Office 365 adoption as tools such as SkyKick and 365 Command (now owned by Kaseya) have made migration and management of cloud-based e-mail easier. Microsoft says Office 365 is now a billion-dollar business, which means it’s driving incrementally higher returns for its reseller partners.

The cloud option is problematic for Microsoft. While it’s undisputed as the e-mail market leader, Microsoft is facing increased competition from Google, which is waging ferrous battles for customers and market share, particularly in the government and education verticals.

Just as many end users will remain on Windows XP after the April 8 end of life date, Exchange Server 2003 will continue on for the foreseeable future even without Microsoft’s support. Solution providers will have an opportunity through 2014 to convert customers to supported systems or cloud-based solutions. The fact that the deadline is looming provides the opportunity to have conversations with customers about options that will lead to sales.

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