In his recent article ”Exchange 2000 leaves small businesses behind,” TechRepublic contributor Del Smith suggested that Microsoft’s latest Exchange server, while appropriate for enterprise applications, is not a good fit for small-business messaging needs. Although a few TechRepublic members said that some small businesses will be smitten by Exchange 2000’s robust capabilities, most seem to believe that there are alternatives available to better serve noncorporate customers. Here are some recommendations for small companies that want a more reasonable solution for basic messaging.
Part of the problem with Exchange 2000 is its hardware demands. Many small organizations can’t afford a database server, a proxy server, domain controllers, and so on, to facilitate the product. For a less hardware-intensive option, member Tom Kuhn recommends IMail Server from IPSwitch.
“It will run on [a system] as small as an NT workstation box with 64 megs [of RAM] and a couple of gigs of hard drive space for mailboxes.”
Kuhn’s firm is recommending this server to all of its small to midsize clients. In addition to the low hardware demands, Kuhn believes that it has a great Web interface and good customization features.
Member BuckRodgers also touts IMail as a viable alternative because of its lenient licensing requirements. IPSwitch allows 250 users or an unlimited amount for reasonable prices.
A couple of summers ago, an intern working for Mark Pettifor discovered Rockliffe MailSite. Mark claims that MailSite is rich in features, easy to set up, and quite scalable for many different messaging solutions.
“It has been stable and price-wise, I believe, comparable to or better than Exchange. In fact, it’s probably a lot cheaper because once it is set up, you just let it run.”
Rockliffe’s tech support is also an attractive product feature. Mark said that after paying a few hundred dollars for an annual maintenance fee, he received access to all upgrades and unlimited support.
If a small business wants to run all of its messaging applications on one server, Novell GroupWise is still an alternative. Michael Brookhuis, a support engineer in Dusseldorf, Germany, said that GroupWise contains the same features as Exchange, but it costs only a fraction of the Microsoft product. Brookhuis mentioned that GroupWise runs better when you have Novell NDS running, but a NetWare server isn’t required.
Although there are several good, secure Linux e-mail programs out there, such as Sendmail or qmail, Linux does not offer a product with collaborative features like Microsoft Exchange. Jason Hiner, community editor for NetAdmin Republic, tried everything he could think of to get a collaboration solution running on Linux for his previous employer.
“I tried HP OpenMail and Lotus Notes on Red Hat 6.0. They both had lackluster performance, and a lot of features wouldn’t work. They were cumbersome and complicated and had very little documentation.”
However, member John Paciotti believes that there are three Linux/UNIX-based alternatives that do mimic Exchange’s collaborative abilities: OpenMail, CommuniGate, and TradeServer.
“Put these on RedHat Linux servers configured with High Availability or use their own clustering, and one has a very scalable mail system for a very low cost.”
An alternative from Microsoft
While some regard Exchange as too robust for small-business demands, Microsoft does offer its Small Business Server package. Member syspop claims that the product is “hyped” as a miniature BackOffice with a relatively low price of $1,500. He likes the complementary one-day seminar on installation.
“Microsoft warns that you must use their installer. They’re right. Small Business Server has its own versions of the applications and wants to be installed by its own wizards. Do it their way, and it works.”
Once installed correctly, syspop said that the solution requires no tweaking.
What’s your opinion on these alternatives to Exchange 2000? Do you know of any solutions other than the few listed in this article? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.