BlackBerry devices continue to command a respectable percentage of the smartphones subscriber market (27% as of March 2011) despite the rise in popularity of Android and iOS devices. Moreover, the BlackBerry platform offers several advantages when it comes to data efficiency and security (read my 2010 post Why the BlackBerry still trumps the iPhone in the enterprise for specifics). But where does the BlackBerry platform stand when it comes to business deployments? To find out, I met with Oliver Pilgerstorfer, a Senior PR Manager at Research In Motion (RIM) to find out more about the company's roadmap for the BlackBerry in terms of enterprise deployment options.Figure A illustrates how the various product offerings from RIM dovetails together to form an upgrade path from SOHOs to SMBs to large enterprises. Let's take a closer look at the BlackBerry data solutions for businesses. Figure A
This image is reproduced with permission from RIM.
BlackBerry Internet Service
This basic tier of BlackBerry service facilitates the flow of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) messages and email for non-BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) connected BlackBerrys. RIM's network operations center (NOC)-centric architecture also facilitates highly efficient data transmissions that generally allow for higher reliability; this is especially noticeable in areas with poor or intermittent mobile coverage.
MDaemon Messaging Server, BlackBerry Edition
The MDaemon Messaging Server by Alt-N Technologies is a full-featured mail server software that supports standard protocols such as IMAP, SMTP, and POP3, as well as groupware features. In addition, Outlook integration makes it a cheaper and easier-to-deploy alternative to Microsoft Exchange for some.
RIM acquired Alt-N Technologies in February 2009, and the BlackBerry Edition of the MDaemon Messaging Server was unveiled in February 2011. It is obvious that RIM wants to address existing or new businesses that might want to pass on Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, yet still have BlackBerry integration. The solution will also appeal to businesses that want an easy-to-configure, single-installation product.
BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express
BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express (BESx) is essentially a cut-down version of the BES that lets smaller businesses enjoy many of the features in BES for free. Since there is no Client Access License (CAL) licensing fees required for BESx, SMBs or even smaller enterprises can leverage it to deploy thousands of BlackBerry smartphones with a much smaller capital outlay. BESx only supports 35 policies vs. the 450 policies on BES, though its support of the cheaper BIS data plan eliminates another hefty cost barrier.
Hosted BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Since some businesses may want BES-like services but not be inclined to deal with the hassle of purchasing, deploying, and maintaining their back-end servers, RIM partnered with industry service providers to offer hosted BES. These providers are generally also Exchange Server providers and will do the necessary hooking up to support your BlackBerry via BES.
The specific features available vary depending on the service provider. I am a paying subscriber of Intermedia, and it has been flexible about manually tweaking policies that cannot be configured via its interface. (I requested for a policy to retain my text messages and do a backfill of the last 1,000 text message when re-activating on a new BlackBerry.) You can find a list of other providers on RIM's Partner Offers page.
BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)
A BES deployment opens the door to the full gamut of security policies and management features available to the BlackBerry platform. In addition, administrators can push updates to users via wireless, whether it is incremental updates to the company's CRM or even new apps.
The availability of various third-party enterprise management tools aside, another reason to go with BES is the BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS). Mr. Pilgerstorfer did a demonstration of MVS, and he toggled between his mobile number and his desk line directly from the phone menu on his BlackBerry. Mr. Pilgerstorfer explained that selecting his desk line will route outgoing calls via Wi-Fi to the office's PBX. With MVS deployed, it is easy to see how users who travel frequently between offices in different geographical regions can help their companies save huge amount in phone bills.
RIM has gone to great lengths to open up the BlackBerry platform to companies and individuals. The lineup of product offerings shows how businesses can grow from one BlackBerry user to more than 500 employees in large enterprises.
More BlackBerry stories on TechRepublic
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.