Mobility

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.

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