Microsoft Exchange is leader for business collaboration, and the 2013 version is making great strides to support the new ways people interact.
Some of the new features:
- Smart Search learns from a user’s work habits to optimize search results
- Contacts from multiple sources can be merged to provide a unified view of each business contact
- Enhanced message archiving and search capabilities that include other resources in your organization (not just mail, contacts and appointments on the Exchange server)
- Outlook Web App is more sophisticated than ever – view merged calendars, link multiple contact sources such as Linkedin. The look and feel is designed to work better on tablets and mobile devices
- OWA for devices is available for iPhone and iPad
- Very flexible options for hybrid deployments using an Exchange server on the LAN in concert with Exchange online
For smaller businesses, Microsoft is abandoning the small business product which included and Exchange server. The offering for this market is a combination of Windows Server Essentials for local LAN file and print services and Active Directory, along with Exchange Online hosted service or Office 365. The hosted services run on the same server software and provide the same features.
These services are right for very small organizations and widely-distributed, highly mobile workgroups. I do have concerns with aggregating mail for thousands of companies into a large high-profile target for hackers. There are other hosted options (smaller hacker targets) besides Microsoft’s offering, and for some situations an in-house server still makes good sense.