Groupware options for small companies or organizations

(tbd – work in progress… Advice welcome…)

Over the last weeks and months I’ve had multiple people asking for advice about groupware software. For me that is still kind of an open issue and I’m not sure what the best answer would be. These are the options I know and would consider using at this point in time (in Germany):

  • Google Apps – expensive, not everybody wants their data hosted at Google
  • Zimbra OS – on some virtual server
  • OpenXchange (I never understood the licensing/pricing options there)
  • 1&1 MailXchange – hosted OpenXchange service, pricing ok
  • Microsoft Exchange (too expensive for small business)
  • atmail – looks promising, haven’t tried yet

The following list contains the requirements that I would put on such a system:

  • Mailbox for each user with delegation mailbox options
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Mobile sync for Mail, Calendar & Contacts on Android & iPhone, preferably without having to install additional apps
  • Web-mail user interface with Google Mail as a reference “gold standard” – keyboard shortcuts and labels are the killer features of Google Mail for me

Additionally these requirements need to be met regarding server-side and administration:

  • “Domain-level” administration of mailboxes and permissions
  • Automated online backup possible

Actually these two points are the major constraints of Zimbras Open-Source edition which I have been using for some years now. Besides these limitations, Zimbra OS also lacks support for mobile devices (except for IMAP), which is another deal breaker. zextras may help with all of these and I will try it out as soon as I’ll have time for that.

Other options and comments welcome…

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