When recommending a cloud-based email service, beware commodity price shopping and reliability issues.

April 16, 2018

6 Min Read
Cloud Email


Irina Shamkova

By Irina Shamkova, SVP of Product Management, Intermedia

As most partners know, the market is led by just a few managed cloud email options, with Microsoft Office 365 being the most dominant. But Office 365 Outlook email isn’t always the best choice for partners. Many find it difficult to differentiate their offerings with Office 365, or to make the margins necessary to compete with the many other resellers in the market, including Microsoft, which is undoubtedly paying more attention to the enterprise communications market, even adding “intelligent communications” capabilities to its chatbot collaboration tool and debuting “365 Business.”

There is, however, another robust productivity solution that offers both partners and their customers a more customizable option: Hosted Exchange. Hosted Exchange is a powerful, collaborative, scalable solution that is often an great fit for partners and customers. Let’s take a look at why.

Hosted Exchange Sticks

For partners, one significant difference between Hosted Exchange and Office 365 is the level of stickiness.

With Office 365, Microsoft makes it easy for customers to switch providers or even purchase services directly from Microsoft with just a few clicks of a mouse. With no data migration required, customers can easily provider-hop to get a cheaper price, even if the partner did all of the work to initially migrate them to Office 365. With Hosted Exchange, switching providers requires a full migration that often requires significant technical assistance. This makes Hosted Exchange more “sticky.”

Hosted Exchange also allows partners to develop email solutions customized to their customers’ specific needs — with the option to provide complementary productivity and collaboration add-ons, such as encryption, advanced archiving and unified communications as a service (UCaaS), that are able to be sold under either the provider’s or the partner’s own brand. Hosted Exchange is also available in a multi- and single-tenant cloud for additional scalability as a client’s needs might change.

High Levels of Reliability

Hosted Exchange also provides a high level of reliability, meaning less unplanned downtime and, ultimately, fewer customer support calls to troubleshoot issues. This is no small matter for partners tasked with delivering the best experience they can to their customers, at a lower cost than the competition. When customer-support calls increase, the amount of time and money that partners spend in trying to fix the issue increase as well. Not surprisingly, the level of frustration for both the partner and customer can rapidly escalate.

Typically, reliability comes down to how many “nines” a service vendor can provide. Microsoft Office 365, for example, has three nines, or 99.9 percent, uptime, meaning there can be as much as eight hours of unplanned downtime per year. Hosted Exchange, by contrast, can have up to five nines, or 99.999 percent, uptime, which equates to less than six minutes of unplanned downtime per year. Narrowing downtime from hours to just minutes can save companies from losing customers, communications, productivity and significant revenue.

Because of this increased reliability, partners can feel confident that their customers’ email is going to be available nearly 100 percent of the time, and they won’t need to …

… spend the time – and money – troubleshooting to try and get their customers back online. This is a win for both the partner and customer.

Uptime is a leading reason behind why Cabot Howell, VP of IT at MSP Digital Agent, leads with Hosted Exchange with his clients.

“Hosted Exchange delivers greater uptime, and that’s a huge deal for both our customers and our company,” says Howell. “And in addition to a superior on-boarding experience, I know that my customers will receive a better response time on Hosted Exchange whether they have support needs or modification requests.”

Better Service for Partners

Partners need direct support too, but it can be a big expense. In fact, support is a critical differentiator that can mean the difference between healthy margins and profit loss. With my company’s – and most suppliers’ – Hosted Exchange offerings, partners can gain direct access to email experts, sales resources and marketing collateral, in addition to the usual partner program elements. When evaluating Hosted Exchange vendors, look deeper than 24/7 support. This should be the baseline minimum. Will they handle all of the migration and on-boarding for you? Will you have a dedicated representative or have to turn to multiple sources for support? Make sure you know how that service and support received will translate across other partner systems, like ConnectWise, for instance. Partner-friendly support programs free up precious time while making for happy customers.

Healthier Margins

A common concern among MSPs is the fact that Office 365 cannot be sold under a private-label model.

“We evaluated Office 365 but chose Hosted Exchange from Intermedia because Microsoft wouldn’t offer a white-label version,” says Kirk Harding, CEO at Bay Computing Group. “This made the margins miniscule. With a private-label approach, we are able to apply our branding to add on services and better control the strength and longevity of our customer relationships, all while setting our own margins.”

By its nature, Hosted Exchange doesn’t price as a commodity. While Office 365 might offer a suite of products, as a standalone offering, Hosted Exchange provides partners the opportunity to better customize their email service depending on customer need, while allowing partners to set pricing. Again, complementary add-ons, like email archiving, email encryption, and UCaaS – which includes services such as file sharing, video conferencing and voice – give partners the ability to create their own unique solution bundles that can be priced according to the additional value they deliver.

If a partner is selling Office 365 Business Premium for example, a customer can easily look up the price on this predefined, branded bundle, handcuffing the partner to meet comparison shopping pricing; whereas, due to its inherent nature, a highly customizable model such as Hosted Exchange paired with value-added services effectively removes comparison shopping from the equation, allowing partners to better control margins while providing their customers with exceptional value, flexibility and reliability.

At the end of the day, it’s about differentiation and adding exponential value for the customer. Hosted Exchange is just one more option partners can use to differentiate themselves, establish and grow relationships, and offer great and reliable service, all while realizing better margins and profitability on their own terms.

To hear more, stop by Intermedia’s booth at Channel Partners Conference & Expo.

As SVP of product management, Irina Shamkova is responsible for the development and execution of Intermedia’s product road map, ranging from cloud voice, web/video/content sharing and conferencing, chat, presence, file backup, sync and share, business email, identity and access management, security, archiving and other essential unified-communications applications. In addition to product strategy, Irina oversees several high-performing Intermedia teams, including product management, UI/UX, and customer experience.

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like