As a volunteer, read that as “unpaid help”, with Eastside Legal Services Program (ELAP) in Bellevue, WA, I’m always looking for ways to increase staff productivity without breaking the budget. Non-profits are having a particularly difficult time raising funds but in a down economy, the challenge is even greater.

The challenge

Our Executive Director, Stan Kehl was looking for an email solution that would allow the staff to access their email from anywhere as well as schedule appointments on a common calendar. ELAP currently has the domain hosted at our ISP, Drizzle Internet in Seattle. Drizzle runs email for all subscribers on a Linux platform offering POP3 and IMAP client access.

People who’ve worked in an organization with a Microsoft-centric infrastructure , take a common calendaring solution provided by Exchange for granted. ELAP, like many small organizations is just too small to be able to support an on-premise Active Directory infrastructure. There are five staffers who use the Outlook 2010 client and the POP3 connection on their office desktops.

You know the drill: send or reply to email and the message is saved in “Sent items” in your profile’s “.pst” file on the computer you’re working on. Logon to the post office using the webmail application provided by most ISPs and for that matter the free version of Hotmail, Yahoo and the like give you have no access to the folder structure you created on your office computer or to any mail that has been previously sent. Gotta love that Outlook Web Access! Synchronize your mobile device and you have the same problem. Bottom line, you have sent email on every device that you are using Outlook to connect to the mail server. What’s a small non-profit to do?

The opportunity

Enter Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), a  part of their cloud strategy that is offered to customers large and small. The minimum signup for an organization is 5 licenses and the maximum is a number closely approximating the number of IP addresses available in the new IPv6 address space – just kidding about this number.

For non-Active Directory organizations like ELAP, this solution could be rather compelling. Let’s take a look at the offering from a financial perspective. A single license (5 minimum) for Exchange Online is $5.00 per month (1 year commitment) with a 25GB mailbox and all the other stuff that you get in Exchange including connecting to your Outlook client and the Outlook Web Access application. For a 5 person operation, the yearly cost is $300 for the entire organization.

But wait, there’s more! SharePoint Online is $5.25, Live meeting is $4.50 and Office Communicator is another $2.00. The total is $16.75 per license per month. But wait, there’s still more. The Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, containing the four services is only $10 per user per month! That’s $600 for the 5 users in the organization per year.

One thing to take note of is the distribution channel for this product. Microsoft has traditionally built a relationship with third party developers and resellers. The reseller channel periodically morphs into one form or another depending on the product being sold, i.e., program specifics, terms & conditions are tailored to Dynamics, Operating Systems, Exchange, SQL, etc. Enter the cloud and Microsoft is selling or making the offer direct to the customer, in effect competing with the channel. If you contact sales, the person at the end of the chat line will offer to refer you to a local partner. Also, from a personal observation, there doesn’t seem to be much margin on a $300 sale, especially if the service offered is targeted to the “do it yourselfer.” How does a traditional 5 or 10 person Solution Partner make any money on this? Comments welcome!

Microsoft offers a 30-day free trial with 20 licenses and a lot of storage –

MSOnLine Trial Sign Up page

MSOnLine Trial Sign Up page

enough resources for this evaluation. Essentially they create a domain using an identifier you supply as an email and Active Directory security domain to create a 3 level domain name so there is no disruption to your current environment. The domain that would be created for us would be elap.microsoftonline.com. Also, if you were inclined, you could set up a rule in your current mail environment to forward your messages to the trial domain.

Enough speculation. The next step is to sign up and take the test drive.

More to follow …

This posting is provided “as is” with no warranties, guaranties or any rights whatsoever. All content is based on the author’s experiences and opinions and is not intended to influence the actions of the reader.
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4 Responses to BPOS for ELAP

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