BT and Microsoft are to offer small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) individually tailored outsourced software and support services.
BT believes that the joint service, BT Connected & Complete, is right for the market, as such hosted broadband-based services are usually too expensive for SMEs to implement.
"We believe [BT Connected & Complete] will go a long way in helping narrow that gap, allowing small businesses to move beyond simple e-commerce to becoming true e-businesses," said Duncan Ingram, managing director of BT Openworld.
The telco will run a pilot project in Scotland from June to September.
"Scotland is the right size for the pilot and will allow us to fine-tune the service before a nationwide roll-out," said Rakesh Mahajan, general manager of strategy and business development, BT Indirect Channels.
For £50 per month per user, based on five users, SMEs will get a 512kbps service, with the price increasing as the bandwidth goes up.
The connection comes with firewall and antivirus software that is updated daily for the customer. As well as their own domain name, customers will receive tools from BT to help build a website.
Microsoft will offer its Hosted Exchange 2003 software, which includes secure email and spam and virus protection, and Microsoft Office Small Business Editor 2003 with Business Contact Manager.
Because the service will be sold through the channel, SMEs will be able to deal with local firms. The reseller will provide the hardware and software as well as support and advice. This will include a six-monthly on-site 'health check'.
"They have the benefit of dealing with a local firm, but in case something goes wrong there is the back-up of BT and Microsoft," said Raymond O' Hare, Microsoft's business manager for Scotland.
"For example, technical help is available through the reseller, but BT and Microsoft are there if further help is needed."
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