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The market’s leading Exchange hosting provider, New York-based Intermedia,
announced this week that it will roll out the first ever new hosting service
for Microsoft Exchange 2010 with an attractive new twist: a 100 percent data
protection guarantee for customer information stored within Exchange.

The guarantee is the first of its kind and could mark a shift in the way SaaS
providers assure customers of the safekeeping of their data. According to Bob
Leibholz, vice president of sales and business development for Intermedia, the
company’s new guarantee differentiates the organization from other hosting
providers who only concern themselves with SLAs (service-level agreements) that
include uptime guarantees.

“Uptime guarantees are, of course, about service availability. Data protection
is about keeping data safe and ensuring you’ll always have it,” Leibholz says.
“And that really is a fundamental and core issue around hosting today. It is
sort of the elephant in the room that people don’t talk about. Customers still
often don’t have a comfort level that whatever happens, their data is
guaranteed.”

And this, says Jeffrey Kaplan of analyst firm THINKstrategies, is an element on
the decision matrix for SaaS services that really needs to be emphasized.

"Whenever organizations entrust their data to a third party, whether via a
cloud computing service or a traditional outsourcing arrangement, it’s
important to evaluate the vendor’s technical and operational capabilities to
fully protect the data,” Kaplan said in a statement. "We recommend
businesses carefully evaluate the vendors’ ability to verify they have the
proper backup and recovery systems as well as the policies in place to
safeguard their records."

Intermedia’s claims are made based not on marketing merits, but on the basis of
its multimillion-dollar infrastructure, Leibholz says.

“Its not just meaningless words,” Leibholz says of the guarantee. “Our
infrastructure replicates data across multiple data centers, [and] maintains
several copies in the original data center as well as one in an alternate data
center. And then we also have tape backup. Because there are so many copies of
the data, we can guarantee that it will always be there.”

Intermedia currently supports 225,000 premium hosted Exchange users across
multiple versions of the product. The company has a robust private-label
program, depending on more than 4,000 partners to sell the hosted solutions.
Leibholz says the company is constantly on the lookout for new partners, signing
up more than 100 new private-label deals each month.