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Setting up an effecient Mail Server and a VPN

We are a 18 Employee Small Business (Printing Company); the employees are spread over 3 locations (9+5+4).  We do not have a mail server installed.  All email accounts are configured through the ISP that hosts our web site.  Every computer that needs to access the email uses outlook.  Every outlook has at least 7-8 email accounts setup hence; every outlook application on any particular computer downloads emails for 7-8 users (we need to monitor all the incoming jobs to all accounts related to that particular location).  

The disadvantage is that we are allocating 10-15 GB on every computer just so we can access the emails from them; basically its the same data on all the computer, some have more orther less based on the used configured on the particular outlook.

Is Exchange server an over kill for a small company like ours; specially if we have to install it in 3 locations?  What is the most feasible solution.  Also if we archive the old mails, how easy is it to search through them in outlook (that's why I never archived).  

Finally, to trouble shoot we usually log in remotely using Webex; but sometimes the whole experience it pretty slow and frustrating.  Is there a better faster solution maybe by creating a VPN between three locations and does that require setting up a Windows Server on all sites?
1 Solution
I would propose to set it up like this. Get SBS2008 and place it at the "main" office. Setup  it up with Exchange 2007 and create a domain such as yourcompany.local (internal). Get a firewall device such as a Ciso Pix or Watchguard (Cisco is much more complicated to setup than Watchguard). At each remote site, either use a vpn client to connect to the SBS or use OWA for mail access.

I do not believe the SBS will be an overkill as it is designed for a company with less than 75 Users. Prior to impleminting the new exchange box, you can export the current .pst file and then once exchange is up and running, you can import those files.
You could get an Exchange server in one location, purchase an SSL certificate and configure the server for RCP over HTTPS.  This will give all users in the other offices the ability to access their Email stored on the Exchange server in the primary office without creating a VPN connection.  This will allow you to have all Email stored in a centralized location.  As for your second question, it is very simple to view your archived Email in Outlook.  You just need to import the archive file created by the archive process to a separate folder.  You will then be able to view all archived Email.  For troubleshooting your offices, Windows VPN will require a server to be installed in each location.  If you have firewalls installed at each location you can try creating a VPN tunnel between the offices, then you will be able to remote desktop to each workstation by hostname or IP address.  

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