Technology providers reacted favorably to Microsoft's announcement that is launching hosted versions of Exchange and SharePoint, two components of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), aimed at small to medium-sized businesses. However, questions linger about security and Microsoft's innovation abilities.
Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division, said at Monday's launch
event in San Francisco that nearly 500, 000 users have already adopted Exchange
Online since the October 2007 limited release for large enterprises. The San
Francisco event marked the first time the services are available to all small
and medium-sized businesses.
acknowledged the launch represented a "generational shift" in the company's
response to demand for cloud-based computing. Microsoft faces increasing
competition from companies like Google and Salesforce.org, which both offer
applications based on cloud computing, which allow users to access
technology-enabled services from the Internet.
Ruffolo, president of eSecurityToGo in Irvine, Calif., said Microsoft certainly
needs to be in the cloud computing space, and its offering should be attractive
to SMBs. However he warned that small businesses should be aware of additional
security measures they may need to employ. He recommended those companies
consider other vendors. "I think for SMBs in general, I think the hosted
solution makes a lot of sense, it just has to be coupled with the right level
of security," he says. "It depends on the needs and focus of the business.
Security is all about control."
a small business owner, Ruffolo was optimistic that Microsoft's announcement
would be beneficial to SMBs. "Generally speaking we're definitely in favor of
SaaS solutions because they have so many positive attributes," he says. "What
we can see is that the market is moving to provide fast solutions wherever and
whenever they make sense, and for SMBs that happens often."
will offer both services through one-year, automatically renewing agreements.
Exchange Online costs $10 per user per month while SharePoint Online is priced
at $7.25 per user per month. LiveMeeting will be $4.50 per user per month.
also includes Office Communications Server, which is currently in beta and is
expected to debut in spring 2009. Microsoft says Office Communications Server
Online would be priced at $2.50 per user per month.
Osgood, owner of Falmouth, Maine-based Streamline Solutions, says the
announcement is particularly good news for small, "one man band" operations,
because it allows start-ups to save money at a time where banks are freezing
credit lines. "It lowers the barrier for entry from a cost perspective. It's
cheaper to host it somewhere else because you don't have to host it internally,
and you don't need the in-house tech support," he says.
Microsoft's claim that the launch represents a so-called "generational shift"
Osgood believes it may be too little, too late for the software giant. "They're
playing second fiddle again, or at least trying to," he says. "They've lost
their edge when it comes to innovation. They are a marketing company, not a
admits Microsoft's Exchange offering is still likely to be a helpful service to
SMBs. Some small companies are still wary of Google's advertising-based model,
and he says Microsoft's well-known interfaces offer a competitive edge. "It's almost automatic for SMBs, when they're
buying PCs, to get Microsoft Office with some flavor of Outlook on it, and
Outlook works really well with Exchange," he says. "If they have to choose to
go into a Google web-based interface, there's still a learning curve. And
there's no learning curve with Microsoft."