Hosted BlackBerry Services: The Right Fit for Your Business?
Hosted BlackBerry® services let you take advantage of BlackBerry® smartphone features, functionality, and security—without the need for onsite IT staff to manage a separate Microsoft® Exchange® mail server and BlackBerry® Enterprise Server. You get the features and convenience that in-house service would provide, but with the ability to expand or contract your user base as your business needs change without needing additional IT infrastructure.
Wireless access to email, calendar, the browser, as well as the ability to run third-party business applications are all possible when using Hosted BlackBerry services. And because all providers are BlackBerry certified partners, you can be assured you will be working with an organization that will be responsive to your needs.
Recently, we spoke with representatives from two businesses that use Hosted BlackBerry services, Elizabeth Shea, President and CEO of SpeakerBox Communications, and Chuck Marratt, Vice President, Information Technology with MTM Luxury Lodging. Representing the service providers, we also spoke with Chris Damvakaris, VP Sales & Marketing for Apptix and Steve O’Brien, SVP of Managed Messaging Services for USA.NET. Elizabeth, Chuck, Chris and Steve share their insights on how to best choose a service provider and what to expect once you sign up—as well as the potential cost savings Hosted BlackBerry services can offer.
Benefits of Hosted BlackBerry Services
- Priced for your budget and at a set fee per user/per month
- Easy to implement, worry-free maintenance: No need for extended IT knowledge, staff or technology infrastructure; focus your IT resources on projects that grow your business
- Proven mobility technology: Enterprise-grade features, functionality and security
- Ideal for organizations already using or considering hosted services for Microsoft Exchange
The first issue for any business considering Hosted Services for their Microsoft Exchange and BlackBerry services is cost. You'll get a set, regular cost based on the number of users and handsets you deploy. Additionally, you do not need to invest in any hardware other than BlackBerry smartphones, nor do you need dedicated IT staff to support an Exchange server and BlackBerry Enterprise® Server. Being able to budget a set monthly cost for telecom and mobility services is one of the biggest benefits of using hosted services.
Chuck Marratt is Vice President, Information Technology with MTM Luxury Lodging. He started his hotel career in 1981 with Westin. Chuck became Director of Information Technology for MTM Luxury Lodging in 1999 and has since become known as a hotel industry technology expert and most recently led the implementation of state-of-the-art, fully converged IP network applications at Hotel 1000 in Seattle, the Liberty Hotel in Boston, and Bardessono in Napa Valley.
Elizabeth Shea is the president and CEO of SpeakerBox Communications, a Washington, DC-based public relations firm specializing in technology-enabled firms. SpeakerBox has been a BlackBerry customer for five years, and a hosted BlackBerry Exchange Server customer for over a year.
Steve O'Brien is Sr. Vice President of Managed Messaging Services for USA.NET, a Colorado-based service host with clients in more than countries around the world. In addition to being a BlackBerry certified partner, USA.NET is SAS 70 Type II Audited, Microsoft Gold Certified, a member of the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program for Exchange, and winner of the Microsoft Excellence Award for Exchange Hosting Solutions.
Chris Damvakaris is Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Virginia-based Apptix. Apptix is a leading provider of hosted communication and collaboration services including Microsoft Exchange email, SharePoint, Web conferencing, secure Instant Messaging, and VoIP — Apptix's solutions are housed in Tier IV, SAS 70 Type II audited datacenters. Apptix is a BlackBerry Gold Alliance member, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, a member of Microsoft's Technology Adoption Program, a Microsoft Global Solutions Provider of the Year, a Microsoft Unified Communications Partner of the Year finalist, and an American Business Awards (Stevie Awards) finalist for Customer Service.
After the transition, you could end up spending less... Elizabeth says, “Before we moved to Apptix, between our IT and telecom costs, we probably spent from $4,000 to $5,000 a month on support, for anywhere from 20 to 25 people. We now spend about... $800 on our VoIP system and about $100 on our IT and $100 on our Hosted BlackBerry services. So that gets us to about a grand.”
Chuck agrees with this assessment and explains that hosted services make economic sense for any business that might suddenly need to either add or remove a large number of users. He says, “We have done studies to see if we're big enough to bring in our own [Microsoft®] Exchange® Server and BlackBerry Enterprise Server and all that good stuff, and the obvious answer is no, we're not... It didn't make sense then, it probably still doesn't make sense today, just because we fluctuate, we could add a hotel tomorrow.”
Steve says, “A lot of people don’t realize how much it costs with in-house versus outsource. [Hosted services give] flexibility and control and uptime... It’s a huge burden to lift off a small, medium, or even large business.” Both Steve and Chris Damvakaris, of hosted service provider Apptix, are seeing that hosted services are appealing to a broad range of organizations, including companies with international offices that need 24/7 support.
“Even companies large enough to maintain their own internal IT staff and servers are realizing their resources are better served elsewhere, instead of constantly managing mail servers for spam, viruses and the like,” explains Chris.
“They’d rather take those resources and convert them to revenue generating resources. Or into developing applications that they are going to sell,” he continues. “People realize that these infrastructure type applications, it just doesn’t behoove them to keep it internally and they look to partners like Apptix and RIM to provide those services that, even though they are mission critical, are just not in their core competency.”
Many businesses lower IT costs by shifting to hosted services since they don't have to maintain these servers internally. Chuck says, “We have nobody on staff [who could fit that role]... You really would need to bring in somebody that had the [specific IT] experience and understood Exchange to get it set up and... manage the process. That [IT staff] is something we would have to make an investment in, something that we didn't have.”
Steve puts himself in Chuck's shoes and echoes his sentiment, saying, “As a business, there's no way I'm going to staff someone just in case there is a problem.” Steve continues, “If I'm a franchise or manufacturer, I need email, but it's not my business. So why would I waste my time and capital to manage [it] when it's not my core business?”
Running your own mail server carries more expense than just buying hardware. Steve says, “Some folks don't want to consider the true cost of managing network email solutions: software, viruses, spam and wireless. [You get] administrators burning out and pulled into different tasks.” Hosted services fit into your current staff and support plans and can help you in exploring mobile applications or testing upgrades. “We're an extension of the IT resources you have,” Steve notes.
And while costs are certainly important, savings cannot come at the expense of peace of mind. Both Chuck and Elizabeth are pleased with their Hosted Services providers. But perhaps more importantly, they know they can contact someone and resolve issues in the rare instance of a problem. Chuck explains “USA.NET as an organization has always been there for us and always has been efficient at resolving issues.”
Elizabeth concurs but adds a tip that prospective users may want to try when evaluating service providers. “I called our provider at midnight to make sure they would be responsive to queries day or night—and they were.”
Finally, Chuck and Elizabeth offer suggestions to people looking to move to Hosted BlackBerry services. Elizabeth shares, “The questions that I asked were about availability and uptime, as well as what kinds of service-level arrangements are available.” Chuck adds, “I think one of the things you want to look at is, do you have a resource that is going to be dedicated solely to making sure that you're protected from a virus-type capability or worm, [and] cutting down on the amount of spam.”