You know the old saying, nothing in life is free. Well in the case of Blackberry Enterprise Server Express, it is actually is free. RIM introduced this version of BES at World Mobile Congress back in February. Up to than the BES was several thousand dollars to purchase. Plus the additional cost of client access licences (CALs).

For many organizations the cost of CALs was a big barrier for Blackberry deployments. I have encountered it many times in my years selling the Blackberry solution. Quite often they will opt for a Windows Mobile or iPhone solution because they don't require additional CALS

Now with BESx a Blackberry Enterprise solution is priced the same as a Windows Mobile solution. To find out what exactly a Blackberry Enterprise Server is visit my previous article.

Am I giving up any functionality by going BES Express instead of Blackberry Enterprise Server?

Actually for a small or medium sized business the BESx can actually be MORE functional that the full BES.

"Is that really true? How is the free version more functional?"

So glad you asked. The full BES has always had a few draw back (besides the cost of CALs) specifically you could not install it on the same server as the Exchange box & did never supported Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS).

Now if you're an IT admin, I know SBS is not a very desirable solution but in a small business it is a reality for cost reasons. OK confession time, I've installed over 100 BES' and I have installed it on the Exchange server EVEN on an SBS server box. It's not that it won't work, it's not supported. So if you need to contact RIM tech support you may be asked to put your solution in a supported configuration.

I've done some pretty wacky installations in my time installing and supporting BES. One time I actually installed a BES/SBS server on the microSD card with MojoPac & VMWare Server and ran it on my Blackberry 8300 - seriously. I always considered calling T-Sup just for the fun of telling them the BES is installed on my Blackberry.

The reason BES was never supported being installed on the same box as the Exchange server is to prevent finger pointing. "Well RIM my exchange server worked just fine till BES was installed on it." As they say in Latin, after it therefore because of it.

In small offices, servers & server licenses are in short supply so installing on the Exchange server can be necessary. And more often than not, SBS is also being utilized. So for that reason BESx is more functional.

So what are the differences between BES and BESx?

  • Cost - BESx is free with unlimited licenses; BES is Cdn $4,799 for software & 20 CALs
    • If you install BESx on the same box as Exchange you're limited to 75 users
  • IT Policy - BES has over 450 IT policies available; BESx has 35 IT policies
    • Unless you're the CIA 99% of the IT policies you gain in the BES are unnecessary
  • High Availability - not available on BESx
    • Simply, High Availability is the ability to have a backup BES ready to go on a different box to automatically pick-up the load if your primary BES goes down
  • Enterprise Transporter Tool - not available on BESx
    • If you are a small business don't feel left out because you can't have the Enterprise Transporter Tool. You probably won't have an environment where this tool is actually necessary.
  • Support for Blackberry Add-on products - on BESx you can't have add-on tools like BoxTone or Zenprise. More details to come after WES2010 on BES add-on tools.

For a full side-by-each comparison RIM has a PDF you can download from here.


I really like the BESx. I think this is a truly great product being offered by RIM. I am actively promoting it to my customers small and large. But for different reasons, small businesses for many of the points listed above. The true gold here is for large enterprises.

How I`m positioning this for enterprise customers is that this is something they can put on a server in the company and offer corporate email and BES functionally but with no CAL cost to the company.

One more amazing feature in BESx is the ability to attach a Blackberry to it without a BES data plan. You can have a BIS only data plan attached to the BESx. Here in the Great White North that is as much as $15/month difference for a 1GB Blackberry data plan.

Now a "non-BES worthy" employee can pick up a Blackberry on their own with a consumer BIS plan and still have their Blackberry on the BES, thus allowing them to have company email and calendar/address book sync.