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BT Ignite offers hosted Lotus apps for small businesses

BT's Ignite division is now offering IBM Lotus messaging applications for small and medium-sized businesses. BT Ignite also offers managed Microsoft Exchange-based services but the Lotus package is cheaper and offers more variety of messaging applications.

BT's Ignite division is building out its managed services portfolio with a new offering for small and medium-sized businesses based on IBM Lotus messaging applications. The move follows a licensing deal the two signed in January and a year-old partnership in which BT Ignite hosts Lotus services to the corporate market as part of its Lotus Domino ASP business.

BT Ignite, which also offers managed Microsoft Exchange-based services, says the Lotus package offers a wider range of messaging applications and is cheaper than the Exchange bundle.

Service The company will charge organizations with under 50 users ?12 ($17) per user per month to access Lotus iNotes email, calendar and contacts, QuickPlace collaboration and SameTime IM applications via the Web. BT Ignite is calling the service Online Collaboration. The price drops to ?7.40 for companies with more than 250 users. QuickPlace is also available as a stand-alone option. A 50-user system will cost from about ?10,000 per year.

BT Ignite currently offers Lotus applications on a managed, hosted basis to corporate users - each customer has its own dedicated server. For the SMB market, BT will co-host different users on the same server using Lotus Hosted Manager software. The corporate service costs ?4,500 to set up, and the per-user charges are roughly double those of the SMB service. BT Ignite's Mark Lindsay says it has 40 customers for this service and two for the Exchange offering, each with hundreds of users - and the services have only been available for a few months. The Exchange service is designed primarily for users of 5.5 to get onto Exchange 2000 without having to host the software themselves.

The deal isn't exclusive, and Lotus applications are offered through other ISPs and operators. Similar SMB services are available from other operators, such as Telewest with its Exchange-based service.

Conclusion The speed with which BT Ignite moves is distinctly underwhelming, but at least it now offers a range of product choices for different sectors of the market. Ironically, a demo of the service on a 64Kb line brought a chorus of opinion from BT Ignite and its partners that users might ideally seek a broadband connection to access the applications. Over to you, then, BT Openworld.

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