If you do a quick check with the IT pro community on their favorite Microsoft product, most of the time you may get this answer - Messaging & Collaboration or specifically MS Exchange server; eventually this could be Unified Communications as the Office communications server advances to its next level. Literally, no direct competition for MS Exchange Server.
With the recent release of Unified Communications, the competition is even getting stronger & dominating in the market for Microsoft Messaging & Collaboration. I guess this is the time for other players to cooperate with Microsoft; or else they become less dominant in the market. Companies like Alcatel, Nortel, Avaya, Polycom and many more are now partnering with Microsoft on integrating its solutions with Microsoft Unified Communications product.
That's fine, back to the topic. It has been agreed that Exchange is a big shot in the corporate environment because of its features & intuitive user interface are most suitable for any average users. But it sounds expensive for the users if they wish to have their own Exchange Server & Outlook mailbox. Crazy, isn't it? Why would one want to go for this expensive way? The fact is, until recently it was almost impossible for a single home user to run an exchange server for his/her own. This is due to various reasons, such as hardware, bandwidth, license, server admin expertise, so on and so forth, becoming drastically expensive. My personal Exchange Server is running on a Virtual Server environment that is also limiting what I do in Exchange. It's merely helps me to get into the environment where I can review various exchange related products and write about Exchange which gets published as tutorials for the community to read.
As I mentioned, Hosted Exchange environment used to be very expensive for a single home user, now more Exchange Hosting providers have started offering a Single Home user experience with relatively affordable range (again not free yet), but good thing is these providers have minimized the minimum number of users requirement. Some of the offers are crazy as they can offer 3GB mailbox capacity with free licenses for Outlook 2007, Antispam, and SharePoint & Mobile Sync. Unreasonably generous. Isn't it? Just kidding :-).
- Month-to-Month Contract
- Personal and Shared Calendar
- Personal and Shared Address Book
- Task Manager
- Auto Reply
- Outlook Web Access
- Administrative Control Panel
In the past, I cannot imagine a single user buying Exchange Hosting services as it was too much of a good thing for an average user. Now the scenario is anyone can sign up for one account with less money and for that reason, I guess now all these single home users who are passionate about Exchange should start using this service. It would be even amazing if you are carrying a Windows Mobile device (I prefer Ver. 6 because of its HTML view) as Windows Mobile devices can now access the Exchange Server directly without attaching any cables to your PC which makes your life much simpler. Imagine, if your PC crashed (touch wood), the hosted Exchange Server service will come to rescue you to a great deal as it holds tons of your valuable info such as contacts, calendar, tasks, important word, excel, ppt etc and that can be synced back to the system in the event of data catastrophe or if you get a new computer as a replacement. Until such time the system is being restored, Exchange hosting services will enable you to access your data with Outlook Web Access.
Why should I compromise on email response time and especially If I need to download big files? I heard this many times from many people. My answer to this question is: broadband connection is getting faster and faster these days, and has the ability to minimize the performance difference in connectivity speed between your organization's messaging infrastructure and the hosted one. The Internet speed provided by your local service provider is sometimes more than you expected/wanted in a DSL and Cable modem. Great advantage for mobile users, since the exchange server can be accessed literally from anywhere with a broadband connection, no matter where you are located.
Why should I spend $$$ for my single user mailbox when there are free email accounts giving 2 gb+ mailbox capacity? Hmm... Tough question. I totally agree if this is your personal mailbox with zero impact to your life when this mailbox is completely down. But there is always a "however", it matters a lot if the mailbox crash causes a revenue crisis and lost credibility. Think again, if email communication is mission critical to you, then it's better go for the hosting service. Also, it brings you additional value added services which makes your life simpler as well as increases efficiency & productivity. It offers more than just mail, those value added services are:
- Enhanced Contact lists
- Able to schedule meetings
- Blackberry and Microsoft ActiveSync mobile solutions that enable you to access mail, calendars, contacts and tasks wherever you are.
- Anti-SPAM and anti-Virus protection which eliminates unwanted e-mails and downtime
- Comprehensive archiving and backup solutions to protect critical business e-mails, contacts and data. Many more...
Signing up is as easy as filling a form in service providers web site. Great stuff, it's time to go for it.