Business Technology

Sunday 21 September 2014

Rivals show there are viable email alternatives to Exchange Server

Rohit Thakral

Published 29/05/2014 | 02:30

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There are viable email alternatives to Exchange Server

At work, an awful lot of our communication is done through email. With staff working from different geographic locations and synchronising calendars for clients meetings, accessing contact information at the touch of a button is now considered standard practice. So is liaising with a number of people simultaneously regarding meetings and projects.

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For many of us, Microsoft Exchange Server is behind all of this. Since launching 20 years ago, it has become synonymous with managing our emails, calendars and daily activities.

However, in recent years a number of alternative providers have entered the market, with more affordable offerings that fulfil the needs of many Irish businesses. Below we look at the pros and cons of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, along with some open source alternatives:

Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Enterprise Edition

Cost: 'On premise' version costs around €1,200 for 5-user licence for software only

Pros: The most popular software for collaboration and emails, this is fully integrated with the most popular word processing tool, Microsoft Word and Microsoft's email client, Outlook. It also offers a web client to ensure you can access your emails from most of the devices. Cons: It's relatively expensive with a requirement to purchase an enterprise licence and individual user licences for client software. It also has a dependency on Microsoft products to use all the features of Exchange. Finally, client software is not available if you are a Linux/Ubuntu user.

In summary: Microsoft Exchange Server is a messaging and collaborative software product developed by Microsoft. It is part of the Microsoft Server's line of server products and is widely used by enterprises using Microsoft infrastructure solutions. Exchange's major features consist of electronic mail, calendaring, contacts and tasks. It also has support for mobile and web-based access to information and support for data storage. It can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud or as a hybrid solution in which some servers exist on-premises while others reside in the cloud.

Alternative 1: Zentyal 3.3 (www.zentyal.org)

Cost: Free

Pros: All the major features of Microsoft Exchange are available. Users cannot distinguish if their Microsoft Outlook client is using Microsoft Exchange Server or Zentyal, making migrations to Zentyal fully transparent. There's also a Microsoft Exchange Server migration tool available, while a web Interface is available which makes accessing the software easier. There's a simple administration interface and so it's easy to manage without much IT knowledge.

Finally, the configuration of services is very straight forward.

Cons: The setup requires one-time expertise from an IT expert (although this is required in the case of Microsoft Exchange as well). Also, Zentyal administrator can manage "anything" without any restriction which means you have the power to destroy your own server.

In summary: Zentyal 3.3 integrates OpenChange the first and only native drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange Server technologies.

With OpenChange, Microsoft Outlook clients continue to work unchanged, without needing any plug-ins, reconfiguration or migration.

Alternative 2: SOGo (www.sogo.nu)

Cost: Free

Pros: It's accessible through a web interface, desktop client or mobile device. It also has a simple web interface available in several languages and there is the availability of a built-in web client. SOGo and its related components are absolutely free and it provides a coherent environment with Mozillla Thunderbird & Lightning.

Cons: It's relatively difficult to set up as it requires more in-depth knowledge of Linux server operating systems. Also, it's a 'full' open source package and so, only community support is available.

In summary: SOGo provides native Microsoft ActiveSync support. Mobile devices such as Apple iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry 10 can fully synchronise emails, contacts, events and tasks with SOGo. Like Zentyal, it offers native Microsoft Outlook compatibility using OpenChange.

Rohit Thakral is a DIT graduate and chief executive of Dublin-based Target Integration, an open source software company that specialises in providing CRM and ERP software

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