Smartphones

Five things you should know about BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express

Thinking of deploying the BlackBerry platform in your organization? If so, read Paul Mah's overview of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express.

Thinking of deploying the BlackBerry platform in your organization? If so, read Paul Mah's overview of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express.

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RIM released BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express in March 2010 to replace its BlackBerry Professional Software (BPS). This opened the door to smaller BPS users (who previously had to contend with its stalled development status) to features such as HTML.

Before deploying BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express in your organization, here are five important facts you need to know.

It's free

BPS was free only for individual users, but BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is completely free -- there are no licensing or CAL restrictions to the number of users that can be supported. The BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express hardware requirements document (PDF) notes that a stand-alone deployment with a single 2.0GHz Intel Xeon processor and 2 GB of RAM is good for up to 200 users; two 2.8GHz Intel Xeon with 6 GB of RAM can support up to 2,000 users.

A common complaint about the BlackBerry is the substantial licensing cost required to set up a full-fledged enterprise deployment. Although BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express offers far fewer management and security policies, and none of the high-availability or advanced monitoring features of BPS, these are features that many smaller or even midsize businesses can afford to do without.

BIS is supported

A key advantage of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is how it will work with any Internet-enabled BlackBerry data plan, specifically the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS). This appears to be a conscious decision on RIM's part, though there is no evidence that this segregation is anything more than a means to create additional price tiers.

BIS data plans are typically priced much cheaper than full-fledged BES plans. For me, this was confirmed when a recent newsletter from RIM specifically highlighted the ability of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express to use BIS as an advantage.

This means that many organizations that don't require the enterprise-centric capabilities of BES can downgrade and save a bundle on their data costs. For example, the cost of a BES data plan is four times that of a BIS data plan where I live. With the high barrier of entry out of the way, this also opens the door for organizations to connect to their employee-owned BlackBerry smartphones. (The use of a BES data plan is still supported.)

Upgrading is not supported

One clincher for organizations considering a switch to BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express may be that it does not support upgrading from earlier versions of BlackBerry Enterprise Server, including the BES 3.x and 4.x or BPS 4.1.4; a migration from BES 5.x is also not supported.

Fewer policies than BES

BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express supports 35 policies, whereas BES supports 450 policies. Crucial policies pertaining to management and security were retained and range from whether users can access some features (SMS message sending, Bluetooth, the camera) and use their BlackBerry as an IP modem. In addition, settings that are related to password minimum length, age, timeout, and complexity are still present.

Check out the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express Policy Reference Guide (PDF) for the full list of supported policies.

Google Apps is not supported yet

For organizations with large deployments of BlackBerrys, the availability of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express software will make it more attractive to those hosting their own domain to switch to Google Apps. However, the Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server doesn't support BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express yet.

Writing in response to forum queries in February, Google stated that BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express support is on the roadmap, though the company has not announced a release date.

Conclusion

BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a long overdue move by RIM to address the growing number of small business owners who own BlackBerrys. Despite the fact that it's still necessary to host the server software, BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a very attractive option for smaller organizations that want to switch to the BlackBerry platform.

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

7 comments
Cheetahguy
Cheetahguy

Hello All, I'm in an organization where we have around 30 Blackberry phones. Up to last year they did not have a domain yet, and was running on POP3 mailboxes. we have in the meantime changed and implemented a Serer 2008 Active Directory Domain, running Exchange 2010. Most of our servers are running in a Virual Enviromnet, using Hyper V. I want to implement a BES Express Server. Is it safe to install on the Exchange Server (Virtual Instance) or will it require a stand alone server?

McThePro
McThePro

At the opposite of BPS, you must install the BES Express ON the Exchange server itself, a big turn off for us.

jallen
jallen

We "upgraded" a customer from the Professional version after we found out that Rim was no longer supporting it and fixing known issues and we've had one problem after another trying to get it to work. I've spent over 3.5 hrs on the phone with Blackberry support and am sitting on the phone on hold with them yet again. The biggest and most frustrating issue was that the installer didn't create all the registry entries so it wouldn't work after a successful install. It's a known issue but they haven't bothered to update the installer program. The Express software won't install under the server's administrator account so you HAVE to create a new besadmin account. The documentation recommends this but doesn't say it's required - trust me, it is. Finally, we're having issues with the phones not sending email and are finding that if the domain controller gets restarted, Blackberry can't deal with it and also requires a restart. Unbelievable!

cthomas
cthomas

I am running a 10 user installation of BES Express on a PC running Windows 2008 server connecting to a Dell R710 server running Exchange 2007. No problems so far. I have one user on BIS and the rest are BES data plans. The BIS users need to be activated while connected via USB.

MrRich
MrRich

Thanks for your comments. We're going to have to follow you there. But I can see we'll have to wipe and reinstall all the phones. It looks like we can use cheaper BIS provisioning and I am hoping that will not break anything else!

McThePro
McThePro

Thanks for this information, realy helpful !

McThePro
McThePro

It is my understanding that with BIS you can't do "over the air" activation, you must connect the BB device to the server with USB.

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