Linux-based Exchange sub helps health care systems cut costs

Users also gain collaboration features, while hospitals save 50 per cent or more in costs

The PostPath deployment cost the hospitals about US$40,000, compared with $300,000 for Exchange licensing. Grimes also said they were able to use some existing hardware they had on hand.

Clyde Williams, the infrastructure systems manager at Southeast Alabama Medical Center, also moved to PostPath Server after looking for ways to expand e-mail service to an additional 1,500 employees beyond the 1,000 who already had e-mail accounts.

Faced with the high costs of Exchange deployment, Williams looked at Exchange alternatives but came upon several that required plug-ins or client add-ons to make them work with Exchange systems. "I didn't want to have to worry about extra deployments and going out and touching 1,500 PCs," he said.

For Williams, a major benefit of PostPath Server has been that users don't even know that they're running on anything else, he said. He began by setting up 50 users to the PostPath system and will add users over time, having purchased 2,000 user licenses. The deployment will continue through the end of the year and will be connected to the hospital's single sign-on project that will enable users to have single sign-on to use all of their applications.

The system saved the hospital 80 per cent of what an Exchange upgrade would have cost, he said.

At Moses Taylor Hospital, Frank Fallo, who is in charge of network systems workflow development, was looking for a replacement for the hospital's older Exchange 5.5 server, which had a 16GB data limit that was constantly being reached by hospital users, rendering the mail system inoperable. After reviewing five competing products, Fallo chose PostPath because it didn't require plug-ins and would work with the existing Microsoft Outlook client software, which users already liked and were accustomed to using.

"We were happy with Exchange," other than its high costs, Fallo said. "It was really a cost-driven search" for alternatives.

A key, he said, was choosing a product that he could install on a Friday and have users come in on Monday with the system fully operational and "not know that anything was done."

With PostPath Server, that's what he got, he said. About 1,000 users are on the system now, and the hospital saved about 50 per cent on the software costs, he said. "It was nearly a drop-in," other than a few small problems which weren't caused by PostPath. "They were mostly due to incompatible older Outlook clients. Once we got rid of them, we had no problems."

Analysts say such products fill niches when users want to spend less money but want to keep the features they like with Exchange and other large enterprise e-mail server applications.

Vince Londini, an analyst with Info-Tech Research Group in Canada, said Exchange dominates 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the market, with Lotus Domino and Notes and Novell Groupwise filling in the gaps, but those systems don't fit all users because of their size and complexity.

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