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February 11, 2008

Cbeyond Focuses on Extreme Simplicity

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Few service providers serving the small business market have been more successful in recent years than Cbeyond (News - Alert), whose focus on extreme simplicity—in its distribution channel as well as its service offerings—has made it a formidable competitor in the regional markets it has entered. But Cbeyond also has been slowly adding new features when it can identify an existing need that Cbeyond can address affordably, with a drop-dead simple user experience. The BlackBerry service was one example.

But now Cbeyond seems to have concluded that unified email service is such a product. Microsoft (News - Alert) Corp. and Cbeyond have announced a new enterprise-class email service, standard for all customers, plus an option for mobile device support. The difference is the full integration of the business email system with the mobile clients.

The package includes hardware and air time for mobile phone service, local and long- distance phone service, T-1 broadband Internet access and, enterprise-class e-mail based on hosted Microsoft Exchange. The service is available today in Atlanta with future service planned for Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco.

"We've seen significant customer demand for this service; delivering a seamless, enterprise-class messaging and collaboration experience to our SMB customers will give them the ability to compete using services traditionally reserved for large enterprises," says Brent Cobb, Cbeyond vice president.

Using “Hosted Microsoft Exchange” from Cbeyond, users have appointment scheduling, shared contact information, task management and over-the-air syncing of all this information with their mobile devices, all accessible on the desktop or laptop, a Web browser, or a smartphone.

All Cbeyond customers will enjoy the basic benefits of Hosted Microsoft Exchange integrated into their package, and have the option to add mobile access, shared calendar, shared contacts, and a free copy of Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 for $10 per user, per month.

The move is important in part because it move Cbeyond deeper into the managed services space, and partly because adds key mobile support. Cbeyond always is a company to watch, as it seems always to have understood the need for absolute simplicity in selling essential voice and data services to small businesses. The latest move potentially signals that hosted email is a service that can be successfully pitched to small business managers and owners in a really simple way. It bears watching.

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a TMCnet Contributing Editor.

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