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Hosting provider offers Microsoft Small Business Server service

Hosting provider The Planet launches Hosted Microsoft Small Business Server so partners can get into the hosted server market without doing any actual hosting.

A service provider planning to launch a hosted version of Microsoft Small Business Server may help Microsoft partners get into the hosted server market for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) -- without doing any hosting themselves.

The Planet, a Houston-based hosting provider, will announce its Hosted Microsoft Small Business Server on Tuesday.

In providing the service, The Planet will host the actual Microsoft Small Business Server -- which includes Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003 SP2, Windows SharePoint Services, SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004, Outlook 2003 and more. But its channel partners will be able to re-brand the service, adding custom applications for different vertical markets and doing additional integration with SharePoint and other features.

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"We think it's important for the channel partner to own the relationship," Urvish Vashi, The Planet's director of product management, said.

About 15 systems integrators (SIs) who work with SMBs have already signed up as partners with The Planet. Hosted Microsoft Small Business Server will be available through a monthly subscription, and pricing depends on the class of the customers' servers and what extra features they want, Vashi said. That said, an end user with 75 seats could buy the service for about $1,200 a month, he added.

Every subscription comes with system monitoring, incident response, email antivirus software and spam protection, nightly backup and network distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection.

"We handle a lot of the low-end activities that really don't bring [SIs] a lot of margins," Vashi said.

Available extra features include advanced email and SQL backup, BlackBerry support and dedicated firewall, Windows Terminal Server and SQL Server.

The biggest selling points for Hosted Microsoft Small Business Server are its cost and speed of deployment, Vashi said. The Planet's research showed that hosting can cut end users' expenses in half and that it takes about two days to get a hosted server up and running, compared to about two weeks for in-house deployment.

For partners, that rapid deployment means more time to attract new customers and do higher-level work for existing ones, Vashi said.

"Just hosting Small Business Server isn't all it takes to have success in this market," Vashi said.

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