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IMail puts managed e-mail on small biz menu

Amarel-Hart Enterprises outsources Ipswitch, Inc.'s IMail Server to a variety of clients. Mr. Rooter Plumbing and local school districts have found IMail a useful tool to make their work more productive.

The plumbers of Mr. Rooter Plumbing don't waste their time calling in when their work is done. They use wireless Internet-connected Palm Pilots to e-mail their Visalia, CA, office upon completion of the day's assignments.

The e-mail interface the plumbers use is outsourced to them from the network-consulting firm Amarel-Hart Enterprises. Seven-year old Amarel-Hart recently supplied Mr. Rooter with Ipswitch, Inc.'s Web-based messaging product, IMail. According to Jason Hart, the "Hart" in the Visalia, CA-based firm, the plumbers have experienced no problems thus far.

"The office staff no longer has to be tied up taking notes from the field by phone or Nextel," Hart said. "The plumbers are dispatched via e-mail and respond via e-mail."

Amarel-Hart's customer base also includes local schools that are involved in fundraising campaigns. The schools create Web sites dedicated to their causes and free e-mail accounts are supplied to individuals who choose to donate as an incentive to keep giving. Amarel-Hart supplies the schools with the IMail interface, which runs on Windows 2000/NT e-mail servers.

"The accounts are given to patrons as a means to drive fundraising back to the site," Hart explained. He said this usage of IMail has been very successful and is something the firm is proud of.

Historically, Amarel-Hart has run its entire business on the Windows operating system. Hart first looked into using Microsoft Exchange as the Web-based e-mail interface it would outsource to customers. However, when he came across the Lexington, MA-based Ipswitch a year and a half ago, he said he was initially taken by IMail's affordable licensing fees and excellent return-on-investment (ROI).

After using the product for a while, though, Hart, a MSCE, said he found it "easier to configure and support than Exchange." Amarel-Hart purchased the unlimited user package of version 6.0 with a service-level agreement, which allows them to upgrade for free when new versions of IMail are released. There is also a package that can run 250 users.

Hart said Amarel-Hart will upgrade to version 7.0, which became available on June 27. The new version includes substantial Web calendaring features, improved SSL security benefits and spell-check capabilities.

The benefits of the new Web calendaring addition, according to Hart, are considerable. "I can really see IMail giving LotusNotes or Exchange and other groupware a run for their money."

The IMail Server 7.0 unlimited user package is $2495 and the service-level agreement is $745. The 250-user package runs $995. Due to demand, Ipswitch also added a 1,000-user package that costs $2100 total for the license and service-level agreement.

Because many of Amarel-Hart's customers frequently change Internet service providers (ISPs), Hart said using IMail is an excellent e-mail solution for them. By using IMail, his customer's e-mail service never changes. "They have the ability to add a virtual domain on their existing mail system and have no interference from their existing Web domain," he said.

For that, and many other reasons, IMail has become a viable messaging solution that just may, in fact, give groupware "a run for their money."

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