Virtual mail server delivers real benefits

13 Sep 2004

Founded in 2000 with a staff of three, Prime Carrier set out to automate the process by which telecommunications companies trade with each other.

“By that I mean when you make a call from Galway to, say, France, because Eircom does not have a network in France it has to work with at least one other telecommunications company,” explains founder Vincent Browne.

At any one time, he says, Eircom and all of the other carriers have a multitude of operators to choose from when it comes to routing international calls. Until Prime Carrier came along, those choices were managed manually. Browne recognised the problem when he worked for Esat BT and so left to start up what he describes as “an enterprise resource planning systems company for the carrier-to-carrier enterprise space.”

Since its founding, the company has enjoyed four quite successful years, picking up several multimillion euro contracts. The original nine staff have grown to 40 — 25 of whom are based in Dublin, eight in London and the rest spread around the world — serving customers in 15 different countries including the US, New Zealand and Japan.

Because so many of Prime Carrier’s employees are travelling, it is important that communications lines are kept open. For the past three years, the company has been using Netsource and its managed email service provider. “When we first started I went to a US-based domain registry and set up our domain name,” says Browne. “I also initially used their bundled email service as there were only three people in our company at the time. However, as we expanded it became clear we needed more structure and so we placed our web hosting and email with Netsource.”

Netsource is a relatively new name for a company that has been around for a long time. It started out as Clubi, focusing on individual users. With a change in ownership, however, it changed its name to Via Networks and then changed again to Netsource and refocused its efforts on the corporate market.

Browne admits he didn’t look too far afield when searching for a supplier. “We wanted an Irish-based company to support us here,” he says. “That way, if anything went wrong it wouldn’t be too far away.” He is quick to stress, however, that in the three years Prime Carrier has been using Netsource there hasn’t been a major problem.

Yet proximity in the event of a problem was not the only factor in Netsource’s favour, says Browne. “The company offered flexible pricing, allowing us to buy packets of users depending on how we grew. We found it to be responsive and flexible. We are a small company and so is Netsource, so it understood our needs,” he explains.

A key component of Netsource’s offering is its virtual mail server. According to Louise McKeown, sales and marketing manager at Netsource, the virtual mail server gives companies the same functionality as an in-house server but without the financial or human resources overheads. “The product we offer is unique to each business and is linked to the company’s own domain name,” she explains.

Browne agrees with McKeown’s assessment of the product. “It is far more cost effective than having a mail server in-house,” he says. “One great advantage is that you only pay local dial-in calls to an internet service provider (ISP) no matter where you are. You don’t have to ring up your own mail server. So if a company is internationally focused, as we are, it can be very cost effective.”

Browne is also impressed with the product’s reliability. “We have never had a mail outage in all the time we’ve been with it. All of the mail is stored on its data centre so we never lose anything.”

Prime Carrier is currently based in the Guinness Enterprise Centre but is planning to move to new offices shortly.

According to Browne, outsourcing the mail server means one less piece of infrastructure to move.

There are two levels of access to the service. The first is simple send and receive email. Employees can access their email from anywhere in the world using either a standard mail client such as Outlook or using a web interface. “You set up Outlook as if you were with a regular ISP, but of course you are using your own domain name rather than the ISP’s,” says Browne.

The second level is administration. Using a web interface, the client can access the administration layer of the server to create new email addresses, set up ‘vacation’ auto-responses, create bulk emailing lists for marketing campaigns or for internal group communication, all without contacting Netsource.

Browne has no hesitation in recommending the product. “I’m getting more involved in support groups for start-up companies,” he says. “There are two things I recommend — the first is the Guinness Enterprise Centre where we are currently based and the second is Netsource.”

By David Stewart

Prime Carrier founder Vincent Browne pictured discussing the benefits of using a managed email service with Louise McKeown, sales and marketing manager, Netsource