Microsoft joins e-mail managed services fray

Microsoft Corp. has fully subsumed services it acquired from FrontBridge Technologies last year, rebranding and pricing the company’s e-mail managed services and setting out a road map for them.

Microsoft on Thursday will unveil four Exchange managed services derived from its purchase of the e-mail services company: Exchange Hosted Filtering, Exchange Hosted Encryption, Exchange Hosted Archive and Exchange Hosted Continuity, said Eron Kelly, [cq] a Microsoft group product manager.

The services are being sold as add-ons to the hosted version of Microsoft Exchange Server that Microsoft already offers, he said. They also can be purchased by companies that have installed Exchange Server in house.

Hosted Filtering is an antivirus, antispam and e-mail content filtering service, while Exchange Hosted Encryption allows users to encrypt e-mail messages even if they do not know what e-mail service the message receiver uses, Kelly said.

Exchange Hosted Archive is an e-mail repository service that lets companies save e-mail messages for a long period of time for regulatory compliance, and Hosted Continuity — offered standalone or as part of Hosted Archive — is a short-term e-mail archiving service that saves e-mail for about 30 days, he said.

Microsoft will add the services to its volume licensing pricing menu beginning April 1. Base pricing for five users of each service is as follows:

— US$1.75 per user, per month for Exchange Hosted Filtering;

— $17.25 per user, per month for Exchange Hosted Archive;

–$2.50 per user, per month for Exchange Hosted Continuity; and

–$1.90 per user, per month for Exchange Hosted Encryption.

Volume discounts for the services will be available at the discretion of Microsoft partners that sell them, Kelly said.

Sandra Grinker, [cq] vice president of administration for investment bank Montgomery and Co., in Santa Monica, California, said her company was a FrontBridge customer for two months before Microsoft announced it was acquiring services and technology from FrontBridge in July 2005. Montgomery and Co. uses services that now are branded Exchange Hosted Filtering and Hosted Archive.

Grinker said the bank expects to continue using the services as long as it does not experience any changes in customer service because of FrontBridge’s integration into a much larger company.

“If we start to see the level of customer service drop off, that would be disappointing to us,” she said.

In mid-April, Microsoft expects to provide an incremental version 5.3 update to the services, and it will provide similar updates every three or four months going forward, said Filo D’Souza, [cq] a Microsoft group program manager.

One focus of the 5.3 release will be to increase the e-mail filtering capacity of Hosted Filtering service by 25 per cent, he said.

Microsoft plans to release a bigger 6.0 update in line with the next version of Exchange, code-named Exchange 12, D’Souza added.

The official word from Microsoft is that Exchange 12 will be available at the end of 2006 or the beginning of 2007. But if it follows the precedent being set by the recently delayed Windows Vista and Office 2007, it’s likely the release will come next year.

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