BlueTie introduces free business e-mail

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Small business e-mail provider BlueTie Inc., who currently supports hundreds of thousands of paid users, is now offering its online service for free.

BlueTie's free online offering includes business e-mail with domain name support, spam and virus protection, integrated shared calendars, files and contacts. The free offering supports up to 20 users per account and includes administrative tools commonly used in businesses.

"We started looking into ways to offer a free version of our online e-mail, calendaring and collaboration solution early this year in an effort to democratize technology and make it more accessible to small businesses," said Martin Edic, manager of marketing communications at BlueTie, Pittsford, NY.

E-mail accounts can be personalized to reflect a company's domain for a more professional appearance, such as jane@yourcompany.com. Each user receives five gigabytes of e-mail and file storage and a desktop-like experience including rich-text formatting, spell check and drag-and-drop folders.

"The challenge was to find a way to monetize the application so BlueTie could earn revenue without ruining the user experience," Mr. Edic said.

A business model that generates revenue through partnerships with business service providers supports BlueTie. These partners provide a wide range of small business services such as the ability to book travel, send and receive faxes and purchase office supplies from within the application.

For example an integrated travel reservation services from Orbitz and e-mail marketing services from Constant Contact will soon be featured in the platform.

Unlike many free consumer e-mail services like Microsoft's Hotmail, Google's gmail and Yahoo, there are no banner, text or other advertisements within the application and the use of partner services is entirely optional.

"Using advertising to generate revenue obviously wasn't a viable alternative," Mr. Edic said. "Besides, BlueTie is a business application, so we feel advertising just isn't acceptable. It also raises security concerns when a company scans your business e-mail to match ads."

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