There is a Microsoft product you may not have heard of called Live@edu. I saw this on the Microsoft schools blog and thought it was a very good idea. If we were not going into BSF soon I would have put this forward to the school as a way to cut costs. It might also appeal to those who are currently without an exchange server or are soon needing to upgrade.
This service is completely free and doesn't have ads. What it does rely on though is an internet connetion as your data is hosted at Microsoft in Dublin. Your email and data (Skydrive and OfficeLive included for each user) is held on a Microsoft exchange server that can be accessed using most browsers. Users get 10GB of mailbox space each and 25GB space each on Skydrive. You can also use your existing email client to download your mail to your PC/phone. Best of all you can keep your existing domain and addresses for example email@example.com.
Microsoft says this service will be free forever. You can enroll or just register for a trial here.
You can brand the service with your school colours and logos and setup distribution lists. Also there is the capability to setup blocked lists and 'bad word' filters.
So why does it cut costs? Well there is the server license you don't have to buy and the server itself, so there is a few thousand pounds. Then there is the backup media and the exchange license or agent for backing it up and any suport contract that comes with it. Our support with Symantec is £114 per year just for the exchange agent. This doesn't including buying the software to begin with or the backup tapes and server. Then on top of that there is the electricity bills of somewhere between £500 and £1,500 for a server for a year and finally the technical staff wages for setting it up, maintaining it and fixing it whenever it goes wrong.
If you would like to know more check out these two pages here and here.
Also very interesting if you are not using Sharepoint in your school yet is that Sharepoint Online should become part of Live@edu sometime later this year. It was the decision of the school to pay an another school around £3,500 to host ours so it might be worth checking out.