screenshot I believe that all generic technology services should be outsourced. Anything that doesn’t provide a point of differentiation for your business is a candidate to move to the cloud. One of the first applications in this class is, I believe, email. Beyond security of your data, there is no compelling reason to keep your mail hosting on premise. To this end I watch the various email players reasonably closely.

I’ve covered Rackspace’s hosted email before (and see my disclosure). In fact one of my businesses uses their hosted email product for its own email needs. Rackspace has always had two tiers of email – top shelf Hosted Microsoft Exchange for the corporate types and lower lever Rackspace Email for single-domain commodity use.

I spoke with Kirk Averett, director of product for cloud applications at Rackspace to hear about the new offering that Rackspace is making. First Averett explained the rationale for the change. Rackspace is seeing a number of users that have workers at multiple levels in an organization – some who need the full functionality of exchange, while other, lighter users who need hosted email only. In order to answer both of these use-cases needs, within one organization, Rackspace is providing hybrid email solutions.

What this means is that on a single domain businesses can get:

  • Viewable Calendars – users can share and view calendars across the entire organization, whether it’s an Exchange user or a Rackspace Email user, for easier scheduling and coordination. 
  • Simple Control Panel – Administrators can manage Hosted Exchange and Rackspace Email accounts and settings from one dashboard.
  • Microsoft SharePoint – All Rackspace cloud email accounts have access to free hosted SharePoint, with up to 250MB of storage
  • Compatibility – Both Hosted Exchange and Rackspace Email are compatible with the Microsoft Outlook desktop client, and provide mobile support for Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Mobile.

It’s a good way for businesses to save money and deliver the level of product that their individual users need. As Rackspace point out, “using an average 80/20 ratio of Rackspace Email to Hosted Exchange, businesses can save more than 60 percent on email with Rackspace Hybrid Email compared to Hosted Exchange alone, and significantly more than hosting their own email in-house.” – that’s starting to get compelling.

Rackspace is also updating it’s webmail interface (see screenshot above). I was a little dubious at first, doubtful that many business users would actually use a webmail interface (based on the fact that of the majority of Google apps deployments that I’m aware of – a huge proportion still use desktop clients). Averett gave me an interesting statistic. for their Rackspace Email users, the split is as follows:

  • 40% of users use a desktop application exclusively
  • 30% of users use a combination of desktop, mobile and web app
  • A surprisingly large 30% use webmail exclusively

In an obvious swipe at Gmail, Averett said that with their new interface, he believes Rackspace will be able to convert more customers who are unhappy, or unwilling to use Gmails outside-of-the-box mail interface.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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