Microsoft Exchange and other email platforms rank among the first applications that businesses consider shifting into the cloud. But in the mad dash to eliminate capital expenditures and reduce email management headaches, CIOs often overlook another viable email option: Managed email services, which involve an MSP remotely managing your on-premises email systems.

Two prime examples:

1. The Classic MSP: Azaleos is a leading managed services provider (MSP) that initially built its business supporting customers' on-premises Exchange servers. Gradually, Azaleos started to manage additional Microsoft applications for customers before introducing a range of cloud services as well. But it's safe to say the Azaleos managed email business continues to grow, and customers value the service because they can spend less time managing email and more time focused on IT innovations.

Generally speaking, the vast majority of MSPs offer managed email services, according to the annual MSPmentor 100 report published by Talkin' Cloud's sister site.

2. The Outsourced NOC Model: NetEnrich offers NOC (network operations center) services to VARs and MSPs. The NetEnrich services include monitoring and maintenance services for customers' Microsoft applications -- Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server and more. NetEnrich sells its services through the channel, working mainly with such distributors as Ingram Micro and Arrow. The NetEnrich approach frees up MSPs to focus on higher-margin services.

Is the managed services approach better than the cloud email approach? That's not what I'm suggesting. Thousands of businesses have moved millions (yes, millions) of Exchange mailboxes into the cloud. Scores of cloud services providers (CSPs) offer hosted Exchange. And companies like Azaleos and NetEnrich will manage your cloud-based Exchange systems if that's what you prefer.

Still, many companies prefer to keep their email and business applications on-premises -- perhaps because of lingering security concerns and compliance requirements. Yet those companies don't want to continue managing Exchange on their own. That's when the MSP or outsourced NOC provider enters the picture...