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Azaleos, an e-mail managed services provider, is announcing a new certification program for VARs as the company releases an update of its QuickStart E-Mail Assessments service.

The new certification, ACE (Azaleos Certified Experts), trains solutions providers in the updated QuickStart service. Once trained, VARs can offer IT departments an assessment of their current e-mail environments and then recommend ways to migrate to Azaleos’ Microsoft Exchange solution, said Keith McCall, chief technology officer and co-founder of the Redmond, Wash., company.

The QuickStart update and the new certification go into effect Aug. 21.

Azaleos’ services allow companies to migrate e-mail systems, such as Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise, to the latest version of Exchange 2003. Once established, the Exchange appliance is monitored, patched and evaluated remotely by Azaleos.

For their part, VARs can added services, such as unified messaging or SharePoint collaboration, to the solution, while the difficulties of monitoring the system stay with Azaleos.

“The VARs are not called with issues such as the e-mail system going down at 2 in the morning,” McCall said. “They are there to provide the added value resources and the skill.”

Click here to read about what to expect in Microsoft Exchange 12.

The certified expert training instructs partners on how to conduct a two-day assessment of a company’s e-mail environment and offer detailed solutions.

“The program provides a template for performing the assessment,” McCall said. “We’re training them on the delivery of the assessment and evaluating their skills set on Exchange. There are also co-marketing activities for them and leads.”

The updated solution and the new certification comes at a time when the industry is awaiting the release of the 64-bit Exchange 2007—also referred to as Exchange 12—the latest version of Microsoft’s e-mail, calendaring and message server, expected by the end of 2006 or the early half of 2007.

Click here to read more about what opportunities VARs are seeing in relation to the new Microsoft Exchange.

Steven Pivnik, co-CEO of Binary Tree, a solution provider based in Newark, N.J., has worked with Azaleos for four months and is already part of the ACE program. Pivnik said that while some of his customers have a wait-and-see attitude about the new version of Exchange, many others are eager to sign up.

Pivnik said the Azaleos program takes “a lot of the guesswork” out of the complexities associated with Exchange.

Azaleos has “a very good understanding of messaging systems,” Pivnik said. “The ACE program has given us access to their entire offerings. They are able to tell us what kind of box we are getting, and what the configurations are. They also give us a predefined check list that allows us to integrate with the customer’s environment much faster.”

McCall said Azaleos has had success working with companies such as Coinstar, a Bellevue, Wash., company that distributes coin counting machines in supermarkets and other stores. Coinstar had bought several smaller companies and wanted to covert all the e-mail systems to one environment, and Azaleos was able to provide a solution.

The two-day assessment typically costs companies $4,500, McCall said. In addition to Exchange 2003, McCall said, Azaleos will be able to support Exchange 2007 when it’s launched.

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