Microsoft sets price for hosted Exchange and SharePoint

More IT shops are asking questions about hosted Exchange Server 2007 simply because they don't want the burden of managing it themselves.

Microsoft has priced its hosted versions of Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, both of which are due out later this year.

IT shops can get a package of the online services, called the Business Productivity Online [BPO] Suite. It includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live meeting for $15 per user, per month, although the services are available independently, too.

Two new services were also made available for $3 per user, per month: Exchange Online Deskless Worker and SharePoint Online Deskless Worker,

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Exchange Online Deskless Worker includes email, antivirus and anti-spam software as well as calendars, Outlook Web Access Light and global address lists. SharePoint Online Deskless Worker gives users access to a SharePoint portal, team sites and search capabilities.

For partners, Microsoft is offering a revenue-sharing model. Partners will get 12% of the BPO or Deskless Worker subscription fee for the first year of the contract and 6% of the fee for the duration of the contract.

The hosted services are offered under Microsoft Online Services, which was introduced during the SharePoint Conference back in March of this year. Customers can manage the services themselves, or they can choose to have Microsoft or a partner manage the services on off-site servers, as well as their own on-site servers.

More IT shops are checking out hosted Exchange

There is growing interest in outsourcing Exchange. The potential for having email hosted and managed by an outside party is by far the most frequent inquiry Matthew Cain, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn., gets from his clients.

"Most organizations believe they can save money with a hosted email service, but it's also because managing mail is getting more complex rather than less [complex]," Cain said. "People are migrating from Exchange Server 2003 to 2007 and throwing up their hands and saying, 'Do we really need to be doing this ourselves?'"

Microsoft isn't being driven to offer online services by customer interest alone, of course. Google is putting pressure on Microsoft with its own set of Web-based productivity tools that are sold for $4 per user, per month.

"Google has set the [price bar] low, and you have to think that Microsoft is going to respond to that aggressively with its BPO services," Cain said.

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