Would your company like to use Exchange 2007, but are finding the costs too high, you don't have the internal skill set or just want to outsource it?
However have you found that hosted Exchange is too limiting for your company needs or you want a more personal approach to the management of your server?
If so, then we may have the answer.
I have recently been talking to a few clients who would like Exchange 2007, but for various reasons cannot justify their own server. They have also expressed a desire for it to be managed by someone they can get to know, rather than a request going in to a helpdesk queue and being completed by an unknown person.
Therefore what we have talked about is a number of companies getting together to share an Exchange server and the management costs. This server would have a limited number of users, and would be managed by myself. My company would acquire the hardware, arrange hosting at a data centre, setup the server and then manage it.
However to make it worthwhile on costs, time and other investment, we need a few more mailboxes. Ideally we are looking for around 200 mailboxes, we currently have expressions of interest for around 75 mailboxes.
The monthly cost that is currently being looked at is £15 per mailbox per month, with a £100 per client per month management fee and maybe a setup fee. Numbers are not exact as it depends on how many mailboxes we get. If we get 400 or more, then multiple servers could be used, which will bring down the expense as the cost of the domain controllers and additional network hardware will be shared between more users.
We would also need to have a 12 month commitment to the service so that financing etc of the software and hardware can be arranged with some idea of the income flow.
At this time it is planned that each mailbox would have 2gb of space, plus there would be public folder space as well.
If you are interested, then please let me know through the company email address of contact @ amset.co.uk with the number of mailboxes you may be looking to host and whether you would be interested in Blackberry support, and the number of devices. We must ask that you do not contact us if you are outside of the UK, unless you have a UK billing address and the majority of the users will be located in the UK.
Please note this isn't going to happen overnight, once the legal stuff has been dealt with, the hardware needs to be acquired and setup, so it could be early April or later (at the time of writing) before we are ready to go.
Support for the migration from your existing solution should be included - although it depends on what you are currently using.
I appreciate that much of the detail is not exact, at the moment we need to find out how many others could be interested before proceeding any further.
I have written a brief FAQ below which should answer some common questions, although if you do have any queries, please contact me on the above address and I will attempt to answer them and also update this page.
AT THE TIME OF WRITING THIS IS NOT A SOLUTION YOU CAN BUY FROM US TODAY.
PLEASE NOTE THAT FOR LEGAL AND INSURANCE REASONS THIS SERVICE WOULD ONLY BE AVAILABLE TO UK BASED COMPANIES.
Q: Isn't this Hosted Exchange?
A: It is a form of hosted Exchange, and we will be using the Microsoft Hosting licensing system to license the software. However the idea is to offer a service that is more flexible than those offered by Hosted Exchange providers because there is no control panel. Furthermore you know who is managing the server, that they built it and are aware of how it is working. I see it as taking the best bits of Hosted Exchange and having your own server, and putting them together.
Q: What don't we get that we would get with Hosted Exchange/Our Own Server.
A: You don't actually loose a great deal.
From a hosted Exchange point of view, you will not get a control panel or access to any kind of administration interface. Anything you want done from an admin point of view will need to be asked for and I will make the change for you - just as it would if you had your own server - you would ask your network admin or support company.
Things missing from having your own server will include your choice of antivirus and antispam, as we will need to use a solution for all users as it protects the server. You also don't have access to the admin console yourself.
Q: Will we see the other clients in the GAL etc?
A: No. Address list segregation will be used to make it appear to be your own server. While this isn't a traditional hosted Exchange environment, I will be using the techniques from Microsoft on setting up a hosted Environment to provide a secure deployment for all users.
Q: Will it be secure?
A: Yes, this will be a deployment done to best practises. Commercial trusted SSL certificates will be used, behind firewalls with the relevant ports open. It will be just as good as a deployment in your own office.
Q: Will we have access to all features? OWA, Windows Mobile support?
A: Yes. Everything Exchange offers will be there, except for Unified Messaging - see below.
A: Maybe. There are other issues with Blackberry, such as support for Exchange 2007 SP1 and paying for the licenses of both the server and the CALs. If you are likely to be a user of Blackberry, then please indicate that along with how many devices.
Q: What about Unified Messaging?
A: To begin with there will be no Unified Messaging support.
However I am already looking at how UM could be used with remote server for another client. This could be possible if you already have VOIP technology in use or by hosting the media gateway at your own site. That may mean having a different type of Internet connection in to your own office, and maybe increased bandwidth costs for everyone involved.
There are also security concerns to be addressed, so use of UM may be possible long term, but not at the start.
Q: Contract, SLA etc.
A: Can't answer questions on those bits yet, as that needs to be worked out if we went ahead with this project. There will be some kind of contract and SLA, however those details would need to be resolved once the project starts. That would also include support details, how to make requests, track requests etc. The operational details are a long way away.
Q: What about if you are not available?
A: Finding someone who back up me, in case I am not available to look after the server for whatever reason. Whoever I choose to use will be of high quality - I have very high standards and you will know who it is.
A: There will be some kind of backup solution, exactly what I do not know at this time. Certainly Exchange options will be used where possible, and then some additional backup will be used to protect the data in the event of server failure.
Q: It is more expensive than x service provider.
A: That maybe so. However this is highly customised solution with support from a named individual. This is not a "pile it high sell it cheap" solution based on price. This is a quality solution. I would compare it to buying a car, such as a 1978 used Mini to a brand new Mini. Same name, both cars, but very different in what you would expect.
Q: So what do we get that we wouldn't if we had our own server?
A: The first thing is less worry. Someone else worries about the server, the data, whether it is working correctly, bandwidth and use.
Next, you have peace of mind that it is managed by an experienced Exchange consultant, which is not something you may well expect to have if you had your own server. No need to worry about someone who doesn't know what they are doing playing around the with the server.
The server will be located in a data centre, so it will be protected and available to you where ever you are. If you have a high number of users out of the office, it may well be a better performing solution than hosting your own server.
There could also be opportunities to enhance the solution buy purchasing additional software products on a per server basis. While the cost may not be economical for 20 users, for 200 it becomes something viable.