It seems like every conference and trade show has at least some surprises ... one of mine for the NY Show last month was a Manhattan-based company IT company with a fairly elegant email/CRM/remote access/calendaring/time and billing system called OfficePax. Its claim to fame is that it offers many workgroup features and benefits previously unavailable without an Exchange server. It uses a simple, albiet very powerful topology to deliver connectivity without the usually accompanying complexity. Since many accounting practices feel they are "too small" to afford, either in dollars or time, to implement Exchange the OfficePax product just may find a friendly niche here.
OfficePax shares email, calendars and contacts --- much like Outlook --- but adds remote access (somewhat like GoToMyPC), file sharing, invoices, time and billing, and contact management. Licensing per user runs from $180 for basic to $240 for the "all features included" Extreme version. Support adds around $50 per user per year. This pricing can look quite attractive when compared to Outlook plus Exchange ---- even without the added hardware component.
While I was pretty high on the features of OfficePax it does have an Achilles heel --- while it does what it does very well, it does so without Outlook compatibility. In other words, while you can plan a meeting for your staff and invite clients --- the Outlook-based clients (IMHO about 98% of the world!) can't "accept" the vCal. So much for a great solution! The OfficePax people are completely unabashed regarding compatibility and are convinced that they'll soon "take over the world" in groupware. I don't share their optimism and am concerned about adopting an incompatible system. They are certainly right in their claim that OfficePax is richer and more full-featured than Outlook. And Italian is certainly a more beautiful language than English ---- but my clients ALL SPEAK ENGLISH so the "beauty" of Italian does me no good. [Thanks to JLR for the metaphor.]
If you can get past the Outlook integration issue OfficePax deserves a look.