when a user logs in, they can open their outlook and only their emails there.
If the user each have their own username and password (and they should!) then you can configure their desktop per person. This includes configuring their email.
Is this what Microsoft exchange is for?
Yes. Exchange a option to do this. Note that exchange does not just do email. It is for office support, which includes agendas, mail, address books etc etc.
If you want to use all that then you either need:
- An dedicated exchange server (expensive software!)
- Or Windows Small_Business_Server aka SBS. You already have SBS 2011, which seems to include exchange. Possibly limited to a low number of users.
- Or alternative software such as Evolution. This one is free, but since you already have SBS I would go with that.
If so, does anyone know of any cheaper alternatives?
See the link to evolution.
Currently there are only around 10 users who will be using this service.
SBS 2011 has a 75 user limit. With 10 users you should have no problems.
If you grow beyond those 75 (or preferably if you grow and before you reach those 75) you need to upgrade to the 'real' exchange version. If you do not think that will happen soon then just use SBS. Its price is not bad for the package. (Then again, it is the lure to get you into an upgrade path, so it makes a lot of business sense to offer it relative cheap).
If you do expect to grow then:
- Hire someone to configure things properly. Hacking around with 10 users is doable. Manually fixing permissions on 10 PCs is doable (if boring). If you suspect that you will grow consider a well planned proper deployment with automated scripts.
- Given on your budget a free mail agent now becomes an option. But only if you have someone who understands how to maintain it.
- A third option is not to try to maintain this at all. Move it to the old 1960 client/server method (now sold under the name 'cloud services'). If you do make sure you have a decent internet connection and a backup connection. Else you might up with perfectly working email.... and no way to reach it.