In the industry I am in, with the job functions I perform daily, I see more and more organizations moving from an in-house email solution such as Exchange to cloud-based email solutions like Office 365 and Google Apps. This is due to many reasons and an easy way to see why is to compare Exchange and Google Apps.
Let’s look at locally hosted Exchange. In the Microsoft “ecosystem” which is the majority of the business world, Outlook is the email client. It was designed with Exchange in mind and it shows. End users can share contacts, calendars, resources such as conference rooms, and much more. The end users can easily collaborate and share information via Outlook with Exchange on the back end, especially since Outlook and Exchange can easily integrate with other Microsoft products.
Even from an administrative perspective, hosting Exchange locally makes sense. The Exchange admin(s) is in full control of the email service. If there is an issue, he can simply address it immediately rather than have to lean on a support team for a remote product.
This brings to mind several drawbacks though. To locally host an Exchange environment, you need hardware. Sometimes lots of hardware, depending on how big your user base is and what services you want to provide. Couple the hardware with software licensing, and the bills can get rather large.
Google Apps has many of the features you can find in Exchange. It doesn’t end there though. In the range of $50 per user, you get a full suite of applications similar to Microsoft office, with no hardware to maintain or server licensing. Administration of the mail domain and users is extremely simple, and many believe the webmail experience is better than Exchange. Couple that with easy and robust mobile access, and constant product improvements, organizations are starting to see why a cloud-based solution can be extremely attractive.
Regardless of what email service you use, an automated account management system can assist with provisioning accounts. With User Management Resource Administrator (UMRA) automation, the full life cycle of the end user is automated, including their Exchange, Office 365, Google, or Groupwise mailbox.
Read additional information on the automated user provisioning and life cycle management.