Microsoft to offer SharePoint and Exchange online

Microsoft has launched online versions of its SharePoint and Exchange software for business customers - but only for US customers, with availability in the UK to follow next year.

SharePoint and Exchange are Microsoft's collaboration and messaging products, which offer company-wide email, remote access to desktop machines, backup and restoration services, as well as file and printer sharing.

Exchange also allows Windows Mobile-based smartphones to access their email, contacts and calendar remotely.

SharePoint Online and Exchange Online have been in beta in the US since March, with Microsoft claiming to support around half a million users from 18,000 businesses. The service allows businesses to pay a monthly subscription of between $3 (2) and $15 per user per month, depending on their product requirements.

Microsoft claimed the hosted services can save a company up to 10 per cent on costs, by stripping out the initial investment and running costs of managing the infrastructure in-house.

The Redmond giant is clearly hoping Microsoft Online will give customers switching to other hosted options, including Google Apps, pause for thought.