Expanding Horizons

Toby Owen, Head of Technical Strategy at Rackspace

Today many observers just see voice as another application on an IP network but this article looks at non-voice based applications with an emphasis on hosted Exchange, that readers could consider adding to their portfolio in order to widen their income streams and further gain wallet share with their customers.

The opportunity to sell hosted application is growing. There are more applications than ever being made available as either hosted and cloud versions of CPE or premises run products. One basic premise to consider is that the more products you are supplying a user the stickier they become – particularly if come up with interesting bundles that are hard to, well, unbundle.

For example, many customers have realised that setting up, maintaining, and managing an in-house email solution is very painful and time-consuming and the typical benefits of hosted Exchange could be considered being as follows:

  • Access from anywhere – you can access your emails, tasks, calendars and contacts from anywhere at any time with an Internet enabled device and Internet connection.
  • Reduction in IT costs – with hosted Exchange you no longer need to buy and maintain an expensive in-house Microsoft email server and have freedom from software licensing.
  • Suitable for one to an unlimited number of users – easily scalable with a low monthly cost per user.
  • Business continuity – high security data centres coupled with data backup and replication reduce the risk of you losing your business critical data.
  • Full Outlook functionality – when connected to Hosted Exchange you have access to the full features.
Graham Fry

Graham Fry

Graham Fry, Managing Director at avsnet says his company is seeing substantial growth around managed network, cloud video, virtual desktop and presence/information sharing services.

“Businesses are becoming increasingly cost conscious, which has led to a mass unification of infrastructure and communication tools via the cloud. This obviously presents excellent sales opportunities for resellers.

The real margins are found in transformative technologies and services. Enabling video via the cloud can improve collaboration without the need for substantial investment. Virtual desktop accompanies the cultural shift to more mobile workforces that are no longer tied to their desks.

Underpinning everything is network management. IT complexity is growing and businesses need to recognise the benefits possible from trusting their network management to a managed service provider.

Cloud-based control/monitoring applications offer the IT department freedom from time-consuming management as well as helping to cut costs and improve efficiency.

For resellers the challenge comes from convincing businesses that the technology and delivery methods have matured enough to migrate to. The cloud is ready; it just requires bespoke implementation to ensure it meets each business’ specific business/operational requirements. It also requires a proactive service department behind it to protect the investment.”

Hosted Exchange

Toby Owen, Head of Technical Strategy at Rackspace says one of the most common questions I get asked is, “I have 250 mailboxes. Which email solution is the best fit for me?” The answer to this question is always the same: it depends. The number of mailboxes is not the only factor that defines the solution. More importantly, it’s the email requirements which define the best solution, not solely the number of mailboxes.

How do reseller know which Exchange solution is right their customers?

Here are some questions to consider:

1. Number of mailboxes?

The quantity of mailboxes doesn’t necessarily determine the email solution. While the assumption may be that larger businesses go with dedicated Exchange and smaller businesses choose a multi-tenant (hosted) solution, many smaller businesses with higher customisation needs will also choose dedicated Exchange (unless cost-per-mailbox drives their decision). It is also becoming more and more common for larger organisations to choose a hosted Exchange solution that will remove email server management from the long list of IT responsibilities. Again, it isn’t solely the number of mailboxes that determines a single- or multi-tenant solution.

2. Does your email solution require a high level of customisation?

If the answer is yes, a dedicated solution may be the right choice. Dedicated Exchange allows you to customise settings and policies such as mailbox size, message size limit, deleted item and deleted mailbox retention, infrastructure security, email filtering rules and backup.

If the answer is no, a multi-tenant solution may be the right choice for you. Hosted Exchange provides mailbox management through a single, user-friendly control panel and still allows customisation of domains, mailboxes, mailbox sizes, quarantine rules, aliases, resource mailboxes and many other items. Infrastructure needs such as selecting a firewall, designing system redundancy and scheduling system backup are not required.

3. Do you need to control your security settings?

Some customers sleep better knowing that they are the only customer on a server. While security for our own multi-tenant email solutions is very strong, if you require the ability to control security policies or a have desired level of separation from other customer data you may consider a dedicated email solution.

4. Do you want to integrate with server-side applications?

Toby Owen, Head of Technical Strategy at Rackspace

Toby Owen, Head of Technical Strategy at Rackspace

Integration with server-side applications often requires a dedicated email infrastructure. For example, applications like Microsoft Dynamics or servers like Microsoft Office Communications Server or Cisco Unity require a very deep level of system access that can only be attained with Dedicated Exchange.

5. What is your desired level of control?

If you prefer to define your timeline for upgrades or service pack installation (e.g. Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010) you may want to opt for a dedicated solution.

6. How important is a single sign-on (aka Active Directory integration)?

Active Directory synchronisation is available with both our hosted and dedicated Exchange offerings allowing an easier onboarding process and simplifying changes made to user’s mailboxes. This is ideal for businesses who don’t want to worry about users having to remember multiple usernames and passwords, Single Sign-on (SSO) is also available with dedicated email servers, while same sign-on is offered with hosted email servers.

7. Do you have a significant amount of email traffic that is generated from approved websites and sent via SMTP relay?

If you have lots of email traffic coming from various company/marketing websites or portals, you can set up SMTP relay on a dedicated Exchange configuration. The anti-spam controls in a multi-tenant environment prevent SMTP relaying but can be sent via applications such as our own Rackspace MailGun.

8. Do you have governmental or company compliance needs to filter email content?

Some companies need to make sure their email systems comply with a variety of regulations. If so, they’ll need the Transport Rules/Content Filtering that is only available through dedicated Exchange.

9. Do you have custom Disaster Recovery needs?

Do you need to customise your email DR with respect to Recover Point Objective (RPO, or the amount of data you can “afford” to lose) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO, or how long you can experience downtime)? If so, dedicated Exchange is the best fit. If a predetermined Disaster Recovery option better suits your needs, then hosted Exchange is your best option. Data can easily be recovered within 30 days and users can even access deleted mail themselves within 14 days.

10. Are you on a budget or need to know exactly what to expect on your bill each month?

With a multi-tenant option, you only purchase the services you need and scale as necessary.

Back Up

Henry West, Head of Sales at Eclipse

Henry West, Head of Sales at Eclipse

Henry West, Head of Sales at Eclipse, believes that with the fast adoption of cloud and hosted services, utilising cloud services in any way is becoming an everyday occurrence.

“Now is the time to get on the growth curve of cloud services and there is a real opportunity as we are seeing ever-increasing demand for these services – look at how they have developed in the home with subscription services such as Netflix and Love Film. There is a real on-demand economy and as a result, a new, smarter way of working.

Talking about backup specifically, a 2013 UK Government survey on information security breaches reported that the majority of businesses in the UK are concerned about the safety of their data – but that only 21% are outsourcing their data to the cloud. It is reported that 32% of small businesses and 70% of large organisations suffered a serious data breach incident in 2013. And the cost of these breaches is significant – up to £65k for SMEs and up to a massive £850k for large organisations – therefore surely businesses would be foolish not to favour the low cost of data back up against the considerably higher costs of data loss.

Non voice cloud applications such as backup are designed to provide intuitive and responsive access to data, and for resellers, utilising simple subscription based services will give them the flexibility to create their own propositions to resell to end customers at the price points that they choose.

There is a real opportunity for resellers to embrace cloud services in their entirety, and with this increasing demand, being available to provide these services from the offset is vital.”