Zarafa Server AKA Time to replace Exchange?

[sc:software-category ]I’ve run my own mail server for many years (wow, just did a whois on my domain, created in 1998 and I used a different one before that for a couple of years), when I first started I was using a Unix box running SendMail and UofW’s IMAP/POP server.  These served me well for several years but as MS Outlook became my central client and the Internet became more prevalent, IMAP just no longer could do what was needed.  Calendaring was a big part of my move to Exchange and I haven’t looked back since.

However during the transition, I did resist as much as possible the move to Exchange.  For such a small domain I figured there must be a better solution.  Alas there just wasn’t any getting around it and I eventually committed fully to Exchange.  And no bones about it, it has served me well.  OWA is a great web client, support for my Windows Phone is obviously there and overall it takes little effort to maintain it.

Recently though doubt has started to creep in to my mind about running Exchange.  I currently have it running on a VM with 4 processors and 6g of RAM and I keep thinking I should setup another VM for it so I can replicate the database.  That’s a lot of resources for effectively 2 mailboxes 🙂

Likewise, moving to Exchange 2013 has been a pretty significant job and I just haven’t really gotten around to finishing it.

So I decided to do some research and to start with, what I thought would be the hardest part, ActiveSync support.  Turns out that’s not as hard as I thought, Z-Push, is an open source implementation of ActiveSync.  Z-Push supports a few backends, including IMAP and Zarafa.

Turns out that Zarafa is basically an Exchange replacement and comes in three flavours, open source, free and enterprise.  The big difference comes down to what features are available and how many users are supported.  The open source version does not include MAPI compatibility where as the free version does for 3 users.

Until very recently I would have said MAPI support was a requirement to be considered and Exchange replacement, however with Outlook 2013’s support for ActiveSync I’m no longer convinced that is true.  So much so that I’m considering doing something radical and replacing Exchange completely.

I think my first step will be to try running Outlook against Exchange using ActiveSync and see what the experience is like.  If all goes well I’ll stand up a Zarafa box and see how it goes from there.

P.S. After I wrote the above but before this post went live I did some more research and it appears Microsoft REALLY doesn’t want you to use Outlook as an ActiveSync client for anything but Outlook.com.  There is a workaround, but that seems kind of a pain in the butt…

Greg

Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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Greg

Greg is the head cat at JumbleCat, with over 20 years of experience in the computer field, he has done everything from programming to hardware solutions. You can contact Greg via the contact form on the main menu above.

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