Moving to Software As A Service

Prior to returning to Microsoft I’d co-founded a SaaS startup, PredictableIT, that included hosted Exchange in it’s offering.  I moved the email for my old consulting business (which I re-started between PredictableIT and rejoining Microsoft) to the PredictableIT server.  And when my wife and I started our horse boarding business we used PredictableIT for both Exchange and Web hosting.  After PredictableIT’s demise I set up a Windows Small Business Server 2003 at home to run both the web site and our emails.  This was fun at first, but over time has become a support burden.  So a few months ago I moved the business website to Office Live, but had a problem on the email front.  We make use of Exchange Activesync to keep our mobile phones in sync, so moving to Hotmail or a POP3 service was out of the question.  Exchange hosters are pretty common, but their pricing is almost always aimed at larger businesses such as those with 5 or 10+ mailboxes per domain.  We have two domains, one with a single mailbox and the other with two mailboxes.  Rather than pay for perhaps 7 extra mailboxes I continued to run Exchange in-house.

Fortunately, Microsoft is dogfooding its own Exchange hosting (for "Friends and Family") via Exchange Labs.  I moved my old consulting mailbox over a week ago, and having had no problems moved our boarding business over today.  The move was quite smooth and the system is easy to understand and manage.  Setting up POP3 or IMAP clients is a little more complicated in that Exchange Labs uses non-standard ports and specific security settings, but that isn’t unique to this service.  Still, that added only about 5 minutes to my setup time.

I’ve turned off the SBS 2003 machine.  I’ll keep it around for a week or two to make sure that Exchange Labs works as expected, then it’s off to buy a real video board so I can turn this box into a box for testing Windows 7 and other betas!

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