Businesses being misled on remote email


17 Jun 2005

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A lot of small businesses are paying way over the odds for remote email solutions without realising that they have most of the software they need built into their Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, an IT services company has claimed.

“SMEs are being encouraged to invest in remote access solutions. Not a lot would be aware when they invest in Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 that there’d be a very good remote access solution built in,” James Finglas, sales director of MJ Flood Technology, told Siliconrepublic.com.

This feature — connecting to an Exchange account by using Remote Procedure Call (RPC) over HTTP — allows Outlook users security-enhanced access to their Exchange Server accounts from the internet when they are travelling or are working outside their organisation’s firewall. Users need no special connections or hardware, such as smart cards and security tokens, and they can still get to their Exchange accounts even if the Exchange server and client computer behind the firewall are on different networks.

RPC over HTTP is particularly attractive to smaller organisations, for several reasons. There is no capital expenditure required as this feature is embedded in Exchange 2003, although an SSL digital certificate is required (€200) plus a small amount of server configuration. Also, unlike traditional VPN solutions, there are no ongoing administration overheads associated with the solution.

According to Finglas, any IT manager familiar with Exchange Server 2003 would be able to set up remote access for employees with little trouble. However, many small businesses without a full-time IT person won’t be aware of this and will instead seek help from IT services firms, some of which will install separate, and more costly software.

He claimed that some companies are being charged €5,000-6,000 for unnecessary remote access technology, whereas the only additional expense for users that already have Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 should be the cost of the SSL certificate.

He added for companies that don’t have the expertise to do it themselves, any IT consultant should be able to configure the remote access properties of Exchange Server within roughly a day and a half. He estimated that MJ Flood, for example, would charge roughly €1,200-1,300 for this service, plus €250 for the SSL cert – still a great deal less than the amount charged for some of the other solutions, he pointed out.

By Brian Skelly