I’ve just caught up with the Rackspace launch of their latest version of Rackspace Email the other day. Rackspace Email is an email hosting service that is firmly trying to provide an alternative to Microsoft Exchange – and brings with it some inherent advantages of cloud computingIt can be thought of as occupying a middle ground between for example the cheap but possible less robust Google Apps and the top-shelf Microsoft options.
The latest version includes much that users will be familiar with on the desktop offerings – right-click functionality, multiple personal calendars, the ability to delegate calendar “write access” to another user and the like.
At the same time as rolling out the new product, Rackspace dropped the pricing – for a negligible USD1 per mailbox, per month users get;
Real POP and IMAP email access from any email or mobile app
Web-based email, shared calendaring, contacts and tasks
Multi-layer, integrated anti-spam and anti-virus protection
10GB of storage per user
Support – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
So for $12/year you’re getting enterprise level service and, perhaps more importantly a support offering that other cloud players can’t (or don’t want to) match – the recent Gmail outage shows just how valuable service can be – partly from a “visibility of the issues” perspective but also from a user implementation point of view.
In use the product acts just like you’d expect – it has all the features and functionalities that one would expect in a mail/calendaring product – here’s the (unremarkable) mail view – of course the unremarkability is entirely the point – users shouldn’t need to re-learn a process in order to use a product.
Contact management is provided for via the contact tab – again it’s intuitive and familiar;
And lastly nice rich calendaring including multiple calendars, the ability to share calendars, reminders and occurrences and colour coding
I liked what I see – so far Rackspace reports over 1000000 users of the service and that’s split between large enterprises (PGA uses the product) right through to small ones. The age old questions around security will come up with a hosted product but given that Rackspace is the host of choice to some of the most respected SaaS applications out there (37signals arguably being the most high profile), this should be less of an issue than otherwise.
Of course Rackspace doesn’t do other office productivity offerings, so how much of an impediment not having ones writing and spreadsheeting applications ties to ones email will be is a matter of personal preference.