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Web services company targets Exchange

A small Web services provider is hoping to take a bite out of Microsoft's Exchange by courting small businesses that want to do e-mail on the cheap.

A small software maker is hoping to take a bite out of Microsoft's Exchange by courting small businesses that want to do e-mail on the cheap.

Rochester, N.Y.-based BlueTie began business five years ago by selling Web-based services that manage e-mail for small companies and enable employees to access common tools such as in-boxes, calendars and contacts through a Web browser.

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Now, the company is offering a desktop alternative for those who would rather use a traditional e-mail client. BlueTie's DirectConnect, announced Monday, connects with Microsoft's Outlook, part of the software giant's widespread Office software package and by far the most commonly used desktop program for corporate e-mail. The application will be included with BlueTie Server software, enabling small businesses to offer a full desktop e-mail experience without the expense of maintaining their own server, BlueTie CEO David Koretz said.

Koretz said many small companies make do with the simple POP3 e-mail accounts Internet service providers maintain. "They want something better than basic-level e-mail, so they get their own e-mail server," he said. "A lot of them are signing service contracts for $800 or $900 a month to keep the server running, and it's just not worth it for a 10- or 20-person company. It's not the cost of the software...it's the $150 an hour to pay an IT guy when something goes wrong."

Microsoft last year began courting small businesses with Small Business Server, a server software package that includes Exchange. "As part of Windows Small Business Server (SBS), or on its own, Exchange is a strategic investment and has the scalability to grow with your company," the company said in a statement. "Exchange lets you deliver a uniform set of e-mail and collaboration services to all users."

BlueTie offers several different service packages at annual prices ranging from $49 to $199, depending on how much mail storage space and file collaboration capacity is needed. All accounts include access to e-mail and other services via Outlook or a Web browser and synchronization with Palm-based handhelds and wireless devices.

Koretz said BlueTie customers include a number of companies that still run on an Exchange server but use BlueTie as an inexpensive way to provide remote access and backup.

"We have customers who run it alongside an Exchange server," he said. "They look at it as a disaster recovery solution. And by replicating the data on the server, we can offer employees e-mail access anywhere."