Tools Of The Trade: Vodafone Business Email

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The Independent Online

Vodafone recently launched its Business Email service to give subscribers an alternative to the BlackBerry.

It still sells BlackBerry devices, but its own-brand business email is aimed at companies that do not want to invest in a BlackBerry server or that need more flexibility.

The product is based on software from US developer Visto and runs on a wide range of smartphones. This allows small businesses to standardise on one mobile operator and one mobile email service, but still have a choice of devices. Phones range from the Nokia N70 - suitable for people who need to read messages but don't need to type long replies - to a top-of-the- range device with a full keyboard, such as Nokia's 9300, for those who do most of their work on the road.

This flexibility, as well as aggressive pricing, makes Business Email an attractive proposition. It is easy to set up as there is no need for a dedicated mobile email server: the system reroutes messages from a company or personal email account to the handset.

However, while the service is flexible in some respects, in others it falls short of the competition. There is no support yet for multiple mailboxes, so there is no easy way of viewing both personal and business email.

Nor does it support the calendar and address book functions available, say, on business BlackBerry accounts or Microsoft mobile email, although there is good support for attachments

The result is that Vodafone Business Email will be a less than complete solution for many companies, though a viable proposition for firms that need to support several types of handset and can manage with a simple email-only service.

It could also be an option for individuals such as self-employed workers who want mobile email access at a low cost and can live without a calendar function, not least because the basic BlackBerry service has similar restrictions.

But the current product won't be enough to make BlackBerry loyalists hand back their devices.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5.

PROS: supports a wide range of phones; low cost.

CONS: no calendar, diary or multiple mailbox support.

COST: £12.77 a month for the Personal service; £8.51 a month for users with voice contracts costing £34.05 a month (all plus VAT).