Companies looking for a way to leverage Microsoft Corp. Outlook—but not necessarily with Exchange—have a growing number of flexible groupware servers from which to choose.
eWEEK Labs evaluated four of the newest of these servers: Bynari Inc.s Insight Server 4.2, CommuniGate Systems CommuniGate Pro Real-Time Collaboration 4.3, Gordano Ltd.s Gordano Messaging Suite 11 and Scalix Inc.s Scalix Server 9.2.1. Through a plug-in, the servers connect Outlook users to features including group calendar and scheduling and shared folders.
We gave CommuniGates CommuniGate Pro our eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice award not only for providing good groupware features for users but also for offering administrators a broadly extensible system that supports third-party tools and runs on a range of server hardware and operating systems.
With the exception of Scalix Server, all the products have prices lower than those of most enterprise groupware applications, with per-user costs in the range of $20 to $47. Exchange 2003, in contrast, has a per-user license cost of $67, while Scalix Servers price approaches $60 per user.
The servers we tested will be good replacements for many older groupware servers, a move that many enterprises may be considering as Microsoft is set to discontinue extended support for Exchange 5.5 at the end of this year.
eWEEK Labs tests show that these servers provide a good way to upgrade from an older POP (Post Office Protocol)- or IMAP-based e-mail system—or from an older version of Exchange—without significantly changing the way users work at the desktop. When replacing POP and IMAP systems with one of the groupware servers tested, users gain the ability to share calendars and folders and to make those shares available through a Web browser or from Outlook. The products replicate the Outlook-to-Exchange experience with varying degrees of success, however, with Scalix coming closest.
None of the products provides full Outlook-to-Exchange feature fidelity in Outlook, but they all hit the basics of group calendar and scheduling, shared folders, and e-mail. The feature that companies are likely to miss most when using the servers we tested with Outlook is forms. Administrators also have the additional overhead of deploying a MAPI (Messaging API) connector to each client. With the exception of Bynari, all the vendors support remote packaged distribution of their connectors. With the Bynari offering, administrators will need to perform a few additional tasks to ensure that the connector installs with user- specific settings.
In general, the products we tested offer better Web mail experiences than the products they might be replacing. For example, the servers support multiple browsers—and provided the same client experience on Microsofts Internet Explorer and the Mozilla Foundations Mozilla and Firefox browsers—and include useful capabilities such as customizable interfaces.
The products dont have the same level of third-party add-on tools that are available for platforms such as Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino, but important tools such as anti-virus and anti-spam filters are available for all the servers. The Bynari and CommuniGate Pro servers have the most options.
When it comes to archiving e-mail, CommuniGate Pro and Gordano are the only two servers we tested that have integrated solutions. CommuniGate Pro partners with BlueArc Corp. to provide archiving capabilities, while Gordano includes a tool set designed to archive for compliance purposes. With Insight Server and Scalix Server, companies will need to use proxy-based compliance tools and general backup applications.
The four servers we tested, all of which were released in May, give IT administrators a range of hardware choices, including IBMs Power5-based iSeries servers. CommuniGate Pro and Gordano support several operating systems, as well—including Windows, Linux and Solaris—while Insight Server and Scalix Server support only Linux. All the products support Active Directory, but they also give companies the option to use LDAP or their own internal directory structure.
Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.