Peer 1, Microsoft partner on new e-mail service

Infrastructure provider Peer 1 Hosting has begun to offer, in tandem with Microsoft Corp., a business-grade e-mail service hosted and managed by the Vancouver-based company.

The main driver behind the new service is for Peer 1 to provide a full-featured, e-mail to existing customers who already host infrastructure off site, said Peer 1’s vice-president of product development Tim Varma.

“It’s a safe business-level e-mail that they can trust entirely and that they no longer have to worry about managing and maintaining themselves,” said Varma.
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Users will be able to perform the usual things on the hosted platform including sharing and accessing calendars, tasks, contacts, public folders, groups and global address book. They can also synchronize data from their PCs, mobile devices or the Web.

The service, based on Peer 1’s 10Gb SuperNetwork backbone, is delivered with 24/7 customer support. For those users concerned about data security and privacy, Varma said Peer 1 is also partnering with security technology provider McAfee’s SaaS Email Protection.

While the e-mail service is targeted primarily at small-to-medium businesses, Varma said Peer 1 isn’t turning away enterprise customers who may wish to host e-mail for a small workgroup within the company.

The provider already offers an e-mail service on dedicated servers but it doesn’t scale well nor is it easy for Peer 1 to manage, said Varma.

Earlier this month, Peer 1 announced it would host its co-location ServerBeach offering (customers place their servers in Peer 1 data centres but administer it themselves) out of its newly built Toronto-based data centre. The idea is by offering ServerBeach out of Toronto businesses in the city and surrounding area benefit from the closer proximity.

Extending ServerBeach and now offering hosted Microsoft Exchange are part of Peer 1’s strategy to broaden its offerings in the managed infrastructure space, said Varma.

“These are all services that can augment our natural core competency which is hosting,” he said. 

According to Russ Conwath, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., it’s important for infrastructure providers like Peer 1 to offer more than just hosting or co-location services. Capturing the entire market entails providing additional Web services like e-mail and SharePoint.

“By adding in the Microsoft component, that’s a very important thing to look at,” said Conwath.

As for Microsoft’s role in this partnership, Conwath thinks it’s great that the Redmond, Wash.-based software company continues to acknowledge the Canadian market by licensing its technology to be consumed in a hosted manner.

Moreover, the clear trend is towards Web-friendly apps like Office 2010 with its Web component, said Conwath. “You can start to see now where data centres, and the ability to provide applications by Web, is where we’re headed,” he said.

Moving forward, Varma said users of the new Microsoft Exchange offering can expect additional features in the coming months that he could not yet list.

Also in the hosted infrastructure space, St. Louis-based Savvis bought Toronto-based managed hosting provider Fusepoint Inc. for US$121 million. Fusepoint also has facilities in Montreal and Vancouver.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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