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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

GroupWare Evaluation

This project was borne from the fact that the company wanted an inexpensive option/s with regards to intra-company communication. To this end we looked as both Open Source webmail, groupware, and solutions that were currently available. Note that these results were from an evaluation of the primary options that were available about 1.5 years from the date of publication of this particular post and may or may not be applicable to your particular situation or needs. Please do your own due diligence.

Zimbra
Seems quite responsive but not sure of the specifcations on their evaluation box. Standard/Advanced GUI that are accessible at the touch of a button. When installed on local (desktop) class hardware was not as responsive as expected. Checked minimum/recommended specifications for hardware and project does not seem feasible from a financial perspective any longer. Even when looking at minimum specifications on their website they seem to be far in excess of the financial resources available to this company. Great desktop client although it does seem to be resource intensive on our Dell GX260/270/280's. Obviously one of the first real Open Source alternatives as well so has a strong development history and community behind it.


Horde
Has most of the capabilities that we require but doesn't integrate particularly well with Outlook. Obviously there is the learning curve problem with regards to the web based interface. What we currently use but based on user feedback it could be better. Latest version has come quite a long way. Suprisingly, synchronisation with your PDA is a realistic/simple option now.


OpenGroupWare
Only took a very cursory look at this. LiveCD in German. Interface was unwelcoming and highly doubt that users will be inclined to use it. Did not continue with evaluation. Moreover, project seems to have become dormant. Last post on homepage for website seems to be from 2009. Does provide integration with various MUA's though.


Exchange
Basically, this is what our users want but due to financial contraints we are unable to pursue it as our network is composed of a number of Linux servers as well as a small number of Windows based terminal servers which can not be re-deployed to meet GroupWare needs. Moreover, the price of properly specified hardware for a Windows based server that is able to run Exchange does not fit into our budget. We calculate that that the project may range anywhere between five and six figures depending on whether or not we factor in future expansion needs.

http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/en-us/default.aspx

Zarafa
The fact that this software is an atrociously good representation of Microsoft Exchange has done it many favours. Basically works on top of existing Linux stack with a web based interface on top. Just like Exchange though uses MAPI error codes which can be almost impossible to decipher without a proper reference source. During evaluation we discovered that some services may need to be restarted to ensure proper/continuous operatation without intervention but we believe that this may have more to do with mis-configuration since there doesn't seem to be many other users online experiencing this same problem at this stage. Strong integration with Outlook but does seem to have a few problems with offline caching mode which we later decided to turn off (may be fixed by the time of publication of this post). Pricing is reasonable (four to five figures).


OpenXchange
Web interface reminiscent of Exchange. Pricing structure is reasonable (four figures). Has Outlook plugin to allow for better integration. A possible contender but was not mature as Zarafa was at the time of evaluation. Pricing is reasonable at first glance.

http://oxpedia.org/index.php?title=Main_Page_AE#quickinstall

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