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E-mail options

Nov 14, 20074 mins
ComputersLinuxSmall and Medium Business hosts over 3 million e-mail accounts.

“Wherever you go, there’s your e-mail,” was the Buckaroo Bonzai-inspired signature file used by Mike Azzara, editor of Unix Today, when he hired me for my first regular network column back in 1989. I quickly learned all editors have, um, interesting traits.

At the time, e-mail meant MCI Mail or pine or elm on Unix systems. E-mail wasn’t everywhere then, but it is now. E-mail service providers are doing a good job keeping up with our e-mail addiction and supporting new interfaces and end devices, like smart phones. So I thought it would be interesting to talk to the CEO of a company hosting over 3 million e-mail accounts and handling over 4.5 billion messages per month.

Michael Rose, CEO of, focuses on two parts of the e-mail world. First, he provides services to ISPs and large enterprise customers, usually putting their name on the e-mail service. That gives the volume handling capabilities to control billions of messages per month. You may be using them and not know it, since they claim to be the leader in that area.

On the other end of the market, the company provides hosted e-mail services for SMBs.

Thousands of service providers offer “hosted Exchange services” (search on that phrase and get 9,100 results), but doesn’t go the Microsoft Exchange route. It uses Linux systems, standards-based browsers and clients, and cites that decision as one of the ways it can keep prices low.

Ah, the price question. Every small business has to have e-mail, but where do they get it and how much does it really cost? When you sign up for Web hosting, you get e-mail hosting as well. You can brand that with your domain name ( and provide employee mail for no real out of pocket expense. Easy to set up, easy to manage for (the most part), and cheap.

Yet the urge for many companies to host their own e-mail and Web servers, often created by Microsoft resellers pushing Small Business Server, takes e-mail service in a new direction. Unfortunately, that direction is not always easy to set up, manage or afford. Administrators will tell you managing e-mail servers of any kind can be difficult, time intensive, and filled with security concerns. That’s why I recommend small companies avoid hosting their own servers until they have a security-trained network manager on staff or a close relationship with a trusted support group.

Two years ago I wrote about the option of outsourcing the management of e-mail servers to a trusted support group (see New e-mail server option). These suppliers help you set up and configure the system, apply patches as needed and manage your server remotely.

Another option brings us back to Rose and his company: use a more advanced e-mail host that charges a fee per user per month. Rose says lives in the tier above the hosted e-mail and messaging services from the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. You pay a little per user per month, but you avoid ads, have better uptime (Rose claims 99.99%), and have more administrative control over your e-mail users. You also get multilevel spam and antivirus protection. charges $3 per user per month with a five user minimum. Microsoft licenses cost much more per each Exchange e-mail account, so it’s rare to find a hosted Exchange option that isn’t at least four times more expensive, and often higher. offers volume discounts starting at 50 users, and Rose says the company’s sweet spot is companies with 25-250 employees. Each e-mail account comes with 10 gigabytes of storage.

So can you get your e-mail wherever you go? supports mobile devices, and its Web client works with browsers on Windows, Linux and Macintosh systems. It just upgraded its Web client but it looks much like the Outlook e-mail client most people use today. It also offers registered mail from Rpost that works like registered mail at the Post Office and provides legal proof the message was sent and received. You get 10 free ones, then pay 59 cents each thereafter. Can’t get that deal at the Post Office.

The company also has a special family plan providing five e-mail accounts for about $3 per month. This offers a way for families to keep a stable e-mail address even if they change ISPs, or their ISP changes names or gets acquired.

Since is another Software-as-a-Service company, as long as you have Internet access, wherever you are, there’s your e-mail.