Bob Jones, managing director of Equiinet, said that companies rush to install Exchange without looking at alternatives, adding that the sales channel is doing its customers a disservice by up-selling expensive solutions when cheaper, more suitable appliance hardware is available to do the job.
"Companies are running up excessive installation costs and unnecessarily saddling themselves with ongoing software licence fees for no benefit whatsoever," he said. He added that Microsoft's announcement of licensing fee increases shows that, even after installation, it is impossible to impose expenditure controls.
Server appliances are standalone devices originally designed to provide small businesses with a simple, secure Internet access point. They have now evolved and the number of users that can be supported has increased.
According to research by Equiinet, a Microsoft Exchange implementation of 350 desktops would typically cost £11,500, inclusive of extras such as a dedicated router and firewall software, but excluding ongoing licensing fees. In contrast, the company claims that a secure server appliance will cost between £1,000 and £3,500 for small to medium-sized businesses as a one-off cost with no licensing fees.
Jones said it is important for companies like Equiinet to get the message across to the users that the mail server appliance has arrived at a level of sophistication where not just medium-sized businesses can benefit, but also departments and branch offices of larger organisations.
In Exchange implementations, he said, hardware is independent of software which adds to the management burden compared to the integrated approach of appliances, where because the software is closely tailored to the hardware, remote management and the ability to support new telecoms technologies such as ADSL is a simpler and cheaper proposition.