September 11, 2023 by Bojana Krstic

Microsoft Exchange vs. Outlook Comparison: Which One to Choose?

At first sight, there may appear to be no significant difference between Microsoft’s primary email systems, Exchange and Outlook.

It’s easy to see why people are confused — after all, they both offer comparable services like calendaring and email hosting — yet they’re utterly different to the trained eye.

Microsoft Exchange and Outlook are complementary services that operate best when used together, despite the fact that they’re commonly presented as either/or options.

Let’s look at the fundamental distinctions between the two services and explain why it’s not so much Microsoft Exchange vs. Outlook as it is Exchange and Outlook

What Is Microsoft Exchange?

Microsoft Exchange is a mailing and calendaring server that enables digital communication and collaboration within a business. Exchange service implies a specialized network resource management application that communicates with email clients using transmission control protocols including IMAP, SMTP, and POP.

MS Exchange
Source: Microsoft

To put it another way, Microsoft Exchange is in charge of sending and receiving emails from and to client computers. Although Exchange may be used with any email client, it is most typically used with Microsoft Outlook.

Exchange is a part of Microsoft Office 365 Business Plans and Enterprise plans, the company’s productivity and collaboration suite. The price tag of Microsoft Exchange starts from $4/month per user and goes up to $12/month per user for their whole suite of products.

What Is Microsoft Outlook?

Microsoft Outlook is a mailing and calendaring app that is a part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite. Outlook is mainly used for email, but it also allows users to manage contacts, tasks, calendars, and more all in one place.

Source: Microsoft

Outlook is an email client – a simple application that you install on your computer and that allows you to send and receive emails via protocols to and from an email server.

You can use Outlook without connecting to Exchange, but you’ll have to work offline, which means you’ll lose access to email and other collaborative features.

Is Microsoft Exchange the Same As Outlook?

The short answer is no, Microsoft Exchange isn’t the same as Outlook although they might seem the same on paper.

They are interconnected components of Microsoft’s mailing and communication service that work on different levels of implementation.

Think of Microsoft Exchange as the backbone of the business’s communication system providing a server software that handles all email communications, calendaring, and collaboration within a business.

On the other hand, Microsoft Outlook is the client application that end-users interact with to access their emails, calendars, and contacts, somewhat like a user interface for that connects the user with Exchange in the background.

One provides the services (Exchange) while the other gives users the ability to access and use those services (Outlook). They work together to provide a comprehensive communication solution.

Now that you understand what each solution does, let’s take a look at which one is right for you.

Microsoft Exchange vs. Outlook

There are a few fundamental distinctions between Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, apart from the fact that one is a mail server and the other is an email client.

Here’s a table overview of the difference between Microsoft Exchange and Outlook:

Microsoft Exchange Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft Exchange is a server application and an email server solution. This means that Exchange is a dedicated network resource management platform. Outlook is an email client installed on your desktop. Outlook is designed to send and receive emails, and it keeps in sync with Exchange.
Exchange is offered as a part of Microsoft 365 Business, Enterprise, and Office 365 Enterprise plans, or purchased separately. Microsoft Outlook is included in the Microsoft Office suite. It’s a part of all versions of Office 365 for business
Exchange can be used both with Outlook and other email clients. Outlook can’t be used with email servers other than Exchange. It’s possible to use it without Exchange, but it requires working offline.
Exchange is usually accessed by IT administrators and database operators. Outlook is accessed by end-users for day-to-day email communication.

Collaboration and User Management

While Outlook allows you to manage groups and collaborate, they are rather basic features compared to Exchange. Exchange provides extensive options for collaboration and team structure. Admins have granular control over user and team permissions, as well as the ability to create and distribute resources, contacts, and subgroups.

UI and Access

Unlike Exchange, Outlook offers a user-friendly interface with a clean and professional design available both on desktop and mobile devices. This makes it easy for users to discover what they are searching for.

On the other hand, the Exchange admin interface might be substantially more intimidating, especially for new users. This dashboard provides you with all of the tools you need to manage your organization’s hosted email, but it may take some time to become acquainted with its features and possibilities.


When it comes to security, Exchange outperforms Outlook at all levels. Unlike Outlook, which just filters spam emails into the Junk folder, Exchange security features are significantly more versatile. Admins can actively filter communications based on business policy or regulatory requirements to guarantee organization-wide compliance.

Message Size Limitations

Exchange allows users to send messages that are far larger than those enabled by Outlook. Individual messages in Outlook are limited to a total size of 20 MB, compared to 150 MB for Exchange users. However, keep in mind that huge files may be rejected by the recipient’s email client.

Key Considerations when Choosing a Hosting Service

Microsoft Outlook and Exchange are only two email hosting services in a sea of many. Just because they’re manufactured and maintained by one of the world’s most well-known software companies doesn’t imply they’re a great fit for every enterprise.

In fact, it could make more sense for you to look for alternatives to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook alternatives.

Before you begin your search, you should familiarize yourself with the various email hosting alternatives accessible to you. There are three main types of email hosting:

  • Self-hosting: You keep your emails on your own server.
  • Shared hosting: You use a third-party supplier to bundle web and email hosting.
  • Third-party hosting: You rent email storage space on the server of a third-party provider.

Once you’ve determined which email hosting model is best for your company, you’ll want to thoroughly examine providers based on a variety of criteria, including:

  • How much do their services cost
  • What features and functionality are available
  • Whether or not they permit custom domains
  • Whether or not they employ spam filters
  • How much mailbox storage space do they offer
  • What security protocols possible they have in place
  • How they intend to utilize your data and who will have access to it.

Microsoft Exchange and Outlook – Better Together

From comparing these two solutions you might have noticed that they aren’t completely different and that you shouldn’t look at them as some kind of competitors.

Microsoft Exchange and Outlook are complementary solutions that work better together and that’s what they were intended for, to be paired together.

If you consider Microsoft’s communication suit as the best option for you, or you found another emailing solution there’s one more important detail you should think about – Email Archiving.

Jatheon provides you with the best cloud email archiving solution that will keep your business compliant and take care of your ediscovery needs.

Book a free live demo and secure your email data.


Should I use Outlook or Exchange email?

This depends on your specific needs and context. For personal use, or if you’re a small business, you can use Outlook as your email client (it can connect to various email services, including Exchange). If you’re a larger organization or need advanced collaboration features, you’ll probably need Microsoft Exchange plus Outlook as the client for accessing Exchange services.

Is Hotmail now Outlook or Exchange?

Hotmail was officially discontinued in 2013 and is now Outlook. You may still come across email addresses, as some users decided to keep them when Outlook took over.

Is Exchange part of Office 365?

Yes, Exchange Online is the email and calendaring component of Microsoft 365 and Office 365. Microsoft Exchange Online is a cloud-based version of the traditional Exchange server. It provides email hosting, calendar management, contacts, and other collaborative features that are essential for businesses and organizations.

Do I need Exchange with Office 365?

No, you don’t need a separate license of Exchange to send, receive or manage mail from your Microsoft 365 account. Microsoft 365 provides a variety of plans with different features, and the email and calendaring services are provided through a component known as Exchange Online.

What is better than Outlook for email?

Google Workspace is a great alternative to Outlook because it offers shared drives and more storage space. Other Outlook alternatives for businesses include IBM Notes (Lotus Notes), Zimbra and Microsoft 365. When choosing an alternative to Outlook for your organization, it’s important to consider factors like company size, integration and compatibility with your existing systems and tools, security requirements and the learning curve for your team.

Read Next:

10 Microsoft Outlook Alternatives to Try in 2024

5 Best Alternatives to Microsoft Exchange

Top Trends in Enterprise Data Archiving for 2024

About the Author
Bojana Krstic
Bojana Krstic is the Head of Content and SEO at Jatheon and an experienced writer on topics like data archiving, ediscovery, and compliance. When AFK, you’ll find her hiking, discovering new music, or road-tripping.

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