ActiveSync vs. Blackberry

October 7, 2009 offers both ActiveSync and Blackberry service. If it weren’t for a hosted option, I might not recommend using a Blackberry service/server. The value of our hosted service is that the cost and headaches of Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) are handled for you. If you are purchasing, implementing and maintaining BES in-house, the cost and configuration alone will drive you mad.

Real Example

I recently quoted a current client of ours for an Exchange server bundled with BlackBerry Enterprise Server for 75 BlackBerry users. The cost was around $2,000. He quickly asked what the cost would be if he just used ActiveSync (most commonly used for Apple iPhone mail or Windows Mobile devices), I told him… $1,000. When he asked me what the difference was in security and functionality, I had to be honest – there isn’t any difference.

Why do people use Blackberry Enterprise Server?

  • Many corporations require it.
  • Many corporations are grandfathered into using it because it was superior in the past.
  • It is a good product. It’s fast, secure and a fairly reliable mobile technology.
  • You can control what individual users see on their phone.
    • Joe in Accounting and Stan from the mailroom probably don’t need the same functionality and applications available on their mobile. Heck, Stan probably doesn’t need a mobile since he never sees the light of day from the mailroom and hates talking to humans, but that’s a separate conversation.
  • It can talk to other mail servers / applications – not just Microsoft Exchange.

What typically prevents people from hosting Blackberry Enterprise Server?

  • Hardware costs, user licensing costs and TCO.
  • Lack of expertise needed to administer and maintain it

Now that you know the pros and cons, you’re probably asking yourself – how the heck do I host any of this in the first place? I thought I had to hire a 70k I.T. guy for that!

Blackberry hosted with Microsoft Exchange

What you’ll need:

  • Blackberry Enterprise Server Software v4.1
  • Additional user licenses/accounts ($10/user )
  • Blackberry mobile device
  • Cost of GPRS (built-in to our hosted offering)
  • BES server
  • BES server administrator
  • BES requires a SQL database to store data. BES provides MSDE – but is only good for 50 users or less. If you have more than 50 users, you’ll need a Microsoft SQL Server.

ActiveSync mobile with hosted Exchange

What you’ll need:

  • Need to purchase the SSL certificate (to keep your information secure and encrypted).
  • ActiveSync mobile device (iPhone, Windows Mobile devices, etc…)
  • Cost of GPRS (built-in to our hosted offering)

What you don’t need

  • No per-user license cost – ActiveSync is included with any MS Exchange license.
  • No SQL database is required
  • Enabling ActiveSync does not require any new hardware; it’s a setting that can be enabled on any Microsoft Exchange Server.
  • Exchange administrator is good enough to manage ActiveSync.

What about security and fancy features?

Security: about the same

  • Blackberry uses 3DES encryption
  • ActiveSync uses SSL V2 port 443

Functionality: about the same

  • They can both read, write and edit documents, spreadsheets, etc…
  • They can both browse the Internet
  • They both allow you to send/receive mail, view calendars, folders, etc…

There you have it. Now, don’t mistake me for a technophile. It’s quite possible I’m missing something huge that easily justifies the enormous cost difference. However, from where I sit – in my cozy ergonomic chair in the World Headquarters, Blackberry vs. ActiveSync isn’t much of a comparison. I have used both, enjoyed both and when I wasn’t paying for it, it didn’t matter to me what I used. My observation is that when I work with clients who have the option to pay more for BlackBerry Enterprise Server – they are opting to buy the phone everybody and their mother wants (an iPhone), and use ActiveSync mobile email for FREE.

That’s it for now – make the most good with your day. Keep it simple. Go Cardinals!

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  1. July 31st, 2011 at 18:05 | #1

    I believe you have a super page here… i just happened to find it doing a google search. anyway, excellent post.. i’ll be bookmarking this page for certain.

  2. Ben
    April 11th, 2012 at 04:40 | #2

    I use both an iPhone and a blackberry and the one big advantage I have with my blackberry is that I can type quicker as I have a real keyboard and I can set my out of office on the go which I cannot do on my iPhone.

    Sent using my iPhone :-) as the browser is so much better.

  3. Fraser Schwalley
    August 2nd, 2010 at 20:01 | #3

    I teach Exchange for Microsoft and have done so for many years. I also had to support the BES server they have poor documentation you must attend one of personal classes. The Exchange product is actually better.
    For one thing you can add VPN or FIPS to encrypt above what is offered by BES for little or no cost per user.
    Two, There is no third party server that you have to pass through. RIM claims that they do not intercept the information many countries do not trust that.

    Finally group policy on the exchange server and mobile devices is much easier to control than on the Blackberry.

  4. Tom Brauch
    August 3rd, 2010 at 11:45 | #4

    @Fraser Schwalley
    Good to hear from you. Thanks for the additional information. This is valuable stuff.

  5. lorri mcdaniel
    August 17th, 2010 at 10:10 | #5

    if a user loses their phone, can you lock the device and wipe it? i think that is a valuable option in regard to BES vs Active Sync. i believe you can lock to the iphone and wipe it but not other smart phones. can you wipe the sd card in phones as well? i think you can with BES.

  6. Tom Brauch
    August 17th, 2010 at 11:12 | #6

    I believe you can, but I’d have to defer to one of our tech guys on that one. Let me know if you don’t find a definitive answer.

  7. October 12th, 2010 at 15:22 | #7

    Hi, even through Outlook Web App (formerly webmail) on Exchange 2010, users can even wipe there own phones when lost… very handy since they are the first to know that they lost it anyway…
    But I must say that when you realy want to do some nice stuff with policies on Active Sync, you must puchase or have at least an enterprice call for that user.

    Licenses, who inveted those things….

  8. gary
    October 14th, 2010 at 13:07 | #8

    I think a big thing you missed is the difference between the push and pull technologies.

    BES pushes a message if one is received where ASync has to do “polling”. It activates data service, logs into the server and checks mail, running the battery down with the radio all the while. The practical advantage to this is that the battery on the phone lasts significantly longer.

    Secondly, I don’t believe that you can do address book lookups like you can with BES. For smaller companies, this probably isn’t an issue.

  9. Jeff
    October 15th, 2010 at 17:41 | #9


    ActiveSync actually does use push, in the same way BES uses it. There may be other reasons to stick with BES (as mentioned in the article), but push isn’t one of them.

  10. September 28th, 2012 at 18:30 | #10

    I love reading through an article that can make people
    think. Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!

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