Are there more affordable alternatives to Exchange for contact sharing with Outlook ?

We had an exchange server 2000 get dirty shutdown on databases.  This was solved in an earlier question.  This prompted discussion of replacing the system.  The only two things we use it for are calendar sharing and unified contacts.  
When the system went down last year I created "outside" email addresses with our domain / email host,    I also moved one office to the online calendar system which works pretty well and they are happy with it.  
My users are addicted to the "internal" email system that allows them to choose a first name and send an email through the exchange system.    When disconnected from exchange they don't get the concept of putting in an email address manually.....
When the exchange databases got corrupted last week it prompted me to move everyone to a duplicate online calendar.  The desktop application allowed me to sync their personal calendar with the exchange calendar.  
Now, all we really use the exchange server for is the contacts.
I tried some importing and exporting and ended up finding out that having 4 different versions of Outlook was difficult to get things like they are on the Exchange Server.
I like the idea of not having a server if I don't need it.

Thank you for your advise.
Who is Participating?
JohnConnect With a Mentor Business Consultant (Owner)Commented:
It is hard to beat Outlook for its overall integration, and it is also hard (as you note) to fake Outlook into doing what it doesn't want to.

Given that you do not want to have a server (decent objective in some circumstances), consider hosted exchange. This is an economical alternative to having an exchange server. ... Thinkpads_User
Ady FootConnect With a Mentor SharePoint ConsultantCommented:
You have a couple of options really.  Hosted Exchange would solve all of your problems at once but will probably be a faily expensive solution.  Effectively you pay a company to run the Exchange Server for you and you pay them for mailboxes on the server (the server is shared amongst lots of different users who all pay for mailboxes).  

The other option is to use something like Google Apps (more information here: where you access everything through a web browser but have the functionality you desire.
Dejan ForoConnect With a Mentor Commented:
In my experience,  database corruptions are regulary caused by improperly configured file system antivirus software. Might be worth to have a look at the following article:

How to Properly Configure File System Antivirus Software on Exchange Server 

If this is the case, then you have the problem solved and no need to look for alternatives.


Dejan Foro 

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sgt_bestAuthor Commented:
Thank all of you for the quick response.
I threw the word affordable in the title because I looked into hosted exchange with and with the block of users that I needed (50-100) It was going to cost $46,000 US for 5 years.  google apps might be a lot better at $50 per user. so that is in the $12,500 range for 5 years.  A new server would possibly beat that cost but not with the maintenance required on a server.  Backups, updates, etc.  

It may well be my antivirus causing the hiccups.  It is an older version of Symantec Corporate.  I had a problem with the version 9 blue screen on XPSP3 machines even though this has the server version.  (FYI, Renaming the symantec folder allowed the PC's to boot.)
The box is so old I hate to throw something on it that will kill it instead of viruses.

JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You might wish to do a bit of analysis. Host exchange is good at the low end and good for more users when support is high. It still may be a viable alternative, especially since your server is quite antiquated.

Google apps work. I happen to like Outlook better.  

... Thinkpads_User
Ady FootSharePoint ConsultantCommented:
Agree with Thinkpads_User but Google Apps is a good viable alternative.  Symantec Antivirus - shudder - wherever there is a strange problem that cannot be fathomed, I look to see if any Symantec products are installed.  9 times out of 10 that product will be causing the problem :-)
Ady FootSharePoint ConsultantCommented:
By the way - there are MANY providers of hosted Exchange and you will find a solution cheaper than the $46, 000 you quoted above.  Have a good look around.
sgt_bestAuthor Commented:
Outlook is the issue.  They all have personal gmail, hotmail, yahoo mail, msn messenger but can't seem to figure out that they can put any email address in the To: box of Outlook.  They have been trained to use this for over 10 years.  The online calendars have been received well and advanced users with smart phones are pleased with the advance.
I'm certain they would adapt to something online for email as well but they are used to Outlook.
sgt_bestAuthor Commented:
I don't think that I can export the Exchange contacts directly into Outlook and have them look the same way as far as the groups...
Allen FalconCEO & Pragmatic EvangelistCommented:
Take another look at Google Apps, then add FloreySoft for contact sharing.  The combination lets you share internal and external contacts in multiple address books with view/write security.  

You can also sync shared contacts to mobile devices.
sgt_bestAuthor Commented:
Thank you for the suggestions.  I will post if I find any less expensive solutions.
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Thank you. ... Thinkpads_User
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