Bell Canada Enterprises has acquired a Toronto-based hosted e-mail provider for an undisclosed amount in an effort to offer enhanced unified messaging services to its clients.

Financial terms of the deal, which was finalized two weeks ago, were not made public. M Systems Group, which will become Bell Managed Information Services (BMIS), manages over 30,000 mailboxes and 50,000 active directory accounts for financial institutions, including TD Canada Trust, its largest customer. M Systems has 100 consultants that will be moving over to the BMIS division of BCE.

Chetan Mathur, former CEO of M Systems who now heads up Next Pathway, a side business that focuses on IP convergence technologies such as VoIP, said being acquired wasn’t originally in his plan.

“We started getting some interest from unsolicited offers coming to the firm,” said Mathur. “We weren’t approached by Bell but we were thinking we would be a good fit for the family of products and services.”

M Systems’ messaging solution, which is based on Microsoft’s Active Directory and IBM’s Java platform, is a utility-based model that charges clients a per seat dollar charge per month. It features 24/7 support, interoperability with PDA’s and real time messaging with virus protection, firewalls, spam and e-mail filtering.

Bell’s acquisition of M Systems complements a previous acquisition it made in 2004, of storage solution provider Infostream Technologies. These acquisitions are part of a strategy that Bell announced a few years ago to use its IP network to provide security, call centre, wireless data, storage and now messaging to its enterprise customers. Bell Canada’s ICT business accounts for over 50 per cent of the total revenue it gets from its enterprise customers.

William Bangert, senior vice-president, technical services and business development, Bell Canada, said Bell has had message offerings in the past but not at this size or scale.

“One of the things that’s becoming a real problem for corporations, particularly for people in financial services, is the compliance objectives that they’re now under,” said Bangert. “If I’ve got to find e-mail messages that related to something, archiving all that messaging and being able to find the relevant information when you need to is pretty difficult.”

M Systems messaging solution allows customers to keep their servers at their sites instead of a data centre, which is a more common practice with hosted solutions.

“In the last number of years our larger clients are very reluctant to move their data centres and move their servers out of their own firewall,” said Mathur.


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