Microsoft? Maybe. SMBs have email options

Microsoft Exchange isn't the only email option for SMBs. In fact, there are many low-cost email alternatives that offer a lot for a little.

You've upgraded your PCs. You've upgraded your databases. Now it's time to upgrade your email server.

Upgrading an old email system or installing a completely new email system is an issue that all businesses face eventually. For SMBs, the choices are aplenty.

Many SMBs tend to default to Microsoft Exchange for an email server. After all, it's the biggest player, and depending on the research and studies available, it's often thought of as a better alternative to Lotus Notes and Novell Groupwise.

I came across this dilemma a few years back when I started my own business. I wasn't sure if I should go along with the masses and implement Exchange or think more independently and find an alternative. I chose the latter option, and I must say, I've been more than pleased. Here are the Exchange alternatives I'm familiar with:

These "lower-end" email server solutions have 99% or more of what most SMBs will ever need for business messaging. That is, POP3, SMTP, Web mail, calendaring, shared address books and the choice of whatever email client you want to use – Outlook, Netscape, Thunderbird, Eudora – you name it.

What they lack

Here's what these low-cost Exchange alternatives don't have:

  • Administration requirements that require specialized expertise
  • Relatively huge hardware requirements
  • Requirement to run on a more expensive "server" version of Windows
  • Bells and whistles that hardly anyone ever uses – even the big corporations
  • Added bonus: "security by minority." In other words, these solutions don't have the majority of hacker minds and malware attacks aimed at them like Exchange does. I'm not saying they're perfectly secure. No email system that supports the Internet standards of SMTP, POP3, HTTP, and other inherently insecure protocols will ever be completely secure, but I feel safer using a relatively untargeted server.

I highly recommend you check out these solutions if you're in the market for an upgrade or new implementation. If you need basic business email services with the option to add on some neat features in the future – all without the costs and headaches of managing a full-blown enterprise-like implementation – check out these Exchange alternatives. I know you'll be pleased.


Kevin Beaver is founder and information security advisor with Atlanta-based Principle Logic, LLC. He has more than 17 years of experience in IT and specializes in performing information security assessments. Kevin has authored five information security-related books including Hacking For Dummies (Wiley), the brand new Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies, and The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance (Auerbach). He can be reached at kbeaver@principlelogic.com.

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