At What Price Business Communications Services?

Michael Vizard

As it becomes more apparent that more e-mail and unified communication applications in general are going to be delivered as a service, determining what type of service provider to rely on becomes the next major challenge for IT organizations.

The challenge stems from the fact that there are so many types of service providers, not the least of which are the vendors that make the software themselves. Case in point is Microsoft, which thanks to the advent of cloud computing, is rapidly becoming a provider of both software and services.

But in addition to Microsoft, a range of telecommunications service providers, hosting companies and managed service providers all want to host your communications software.

Bob Leibholz, senior vice president for sales and business development at Intermedia, a managed service provider that oversees over 250,000 mailboxes, says the most important thing to think about is not the price of the mailbox, but the extensibility of the service. He notes that companies such as Microsoft are in no rush to integrate their services with offerings from companies such as Research in Motion in order to integrate Microsoft Exchange with a BlackBerry smartphone.

Intermedia, on the other hand, has built its middleware platform that allows customers to easily integrate Microsoft Exchange with just about any application they choose, including Microsoft's own unified communications software.

With the advent of cloud computing, the cost per seat of delivering e-mail and other related services is obviously going to drop. But if e-mail is at the hub of your company's business processes, making sure that whatever services platform you choose is extensible is probably a lot more important than the price of the mailbox.

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