Microsofts Hosted Messaging Tool Brings SMBs Greater Mobility

A new version of Microsoft's hosted messaging software gives SMBs a way to get enterprise-class e-mail service and mobile device data access without having to invest in infrastructure.

Forging further into telecom territory, Microsoft Corp. this week will launch a new version of its Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration to give small and midsize businesses a way to get enterprise-class e-mail service, mobile device data access and other functions without having to invest in infrastructure.

Version 3.5 of the hosted messaging software helps hosting providers deliver e-mail, online presence and mobile access services with less complexity and more security. For companies in the "knowledge" business, such as insurance, financial services and real estate, the messaging services are becoming increasingly vital, said Morgan Cole, senior product manager at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.

"We see significant numbers of small businesses wanting to mobile-enable their workers who work outside the office," Cole said. "Now you can have always-up-to-date direct-push device syncing."

New mobility features include Direct Push Technology, which provides a connection between mobile devices and an Exchange server, allowing users to receive up-to-the-minute access to e-mail, calendar appointments and task notifications.

Improved security gives users the ability to remove data from devices that are lost or stolen and a way to set up rules to prevent access by unauthorized users.

The updated version also comes with new management tools for hosting providers, including deployment automation tools, code samples and documented procedures.

"Weve seen a really rapid growth in the number of deployments," said Stephan Schirrecker, director for hosting at Microsoft. "Partners will be able to roll out new services on the platform—you dont have to set up a new provisioning engine."

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The automated deployment tool allows providers to set up new user accounts with fewer errors, meaning faster and smoother customer migration, Schirrecker said.

To work more closely with the hosting industry, Microsoft this week is also launching its Hosting Program, making technical tools and other resources available to certified partners. Partners will have free access to download the Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration offering and technical information and product updates.

uLocate Communications Inc., which provides technology for wireless location services, has been using messaging services provided by a hosting company for three years to save money, said Geoff Palmer, vice president of consumer products at uLocate, in Framingham, Mass. The hosted services are delivered by Group Spark Inc., in Burlington, Mass., which uses the Microsoft technology.

"To bring this in-house would cost us $10,000. Then youd have to maintain it each month," Palmer said, adding that the hosted version of communications simplifies the management of the system as well.

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