After reading James’s post on his hosted Exchange Server issues and then reviewing your comments, I thought long and hard about my e-mail dilemma. Frankly, I’m tired of re-reading e-mails on multiple devices, so around midnight
last night this morning I took the plunge for a 15 day free trial of Exchange services from 4Smartphone.net. Hey, I figure if I start at midnight, I’ll get the maximum possible use of the full 15 days. ;)
Rather than take this decision lightly, I checked Microsoft’s list of certified Exchange service providers and reviewed every single one of their websites. That took about an hour, but I’d rather make an informed decision with something as critical as my messaging. In the end, I opted for none of the listed partners and turned instead to 4SmartPhone.net. They seemed to offer all of the features I was looking for in their Professional plan:
- Push e-mail support (for when my XV6700 can handle it)
- Outlook 2003 support and Outlook Web Access
- Synching of calendar items, contacts and tasks
- 1 GB of storage that’s fully backed up
Here’s a full listing of their plans, what they offer and how they compare to other providers:
The initial account setup only took me about 20 minutes and was generally painless. There are various ways to configure your account and I opted to forward all of my Verizon email and my POP3 Gmail data to the Exchange server. This option allows me to have one centralized place for my multiple e-mail accounts because you know; you can never have too many accounts right?
After following the clear setup instructions, I configured my XV6700 for the new account, which was very simple to do. There are screen-shots complete with your personalized account information after you sign up (shown below); a nice touch.
At this point, I’ve got ActiveSync working directly with the 4SmartPhone Exchange server for my e-mail, tasks, contacts and appointments. No more synching to the Tablet PC with a USB cable.
Next up was to set up Outlook on my Tablet PC. Again, this was simple because 4SmartPhone provides a small downloadable Outlook profile that you just double-click. Be warned that this will wipe out your current Outlook settings; you’ll want to make a copy of your .PST file before you do this. Thanks to the profile installation, there are no Outlook settings to configure. Simply open up Outlook and you’re ready to get your mail. Once the profile is imported, you can bring back all of the mail in your old .PST file, which in my case was almost 450 MB. I let the file import through the night and upon completion, it replicated up to the Exchange server.
At this point, I’ll stop here, having focused on the ease of setup. Over the next 15 days, I’ll share thoughts along the way and I welcome your questions on the service, i.e.: how it works, do I like it, etc…. If I do like it, I’ll be paying the $83.88 for one-year of service in the Professional Plan, which works out to a manageable $6.99 per month.