Microsoft Exchange Server and Zimbra are both highly popular collaboration suites used by businesses to connect their employees in a unified way, although the main difference between the two is that Microsoft Exchange server is a costly commercial application whereas Zimbra is an open source solution. Collaboration suites allow you to store all of your calendar items, emails, contacts and lots more in one central location that can then be access is a variety of ways meaning that you will be able to have the same content in front of you wherever you are. Mobile phones and desktop computers are the two most common devices used in conjunction with collaboration suites, although both Zimbra and Microsoft Exchange Server will provide you with access to a web interface so that you can manage your calendar, contacts and emails. Both Microsoft Exchange Server and Zimbra are feature rich and are built on the same principle of offering businesses and their employees a more streamlined method of managing their schedules; however, the requirements of businesses may dictate the requirement for one over another as there are many factors that will need to be considered in order for a business to come to the correct decision as to which one to use.
Zimbra is an application that can work on multiple platforms meaning that regardless of the operating system that you are running on your servers, the chances are that Zimbra will support it to some extent. Microsoft Exchange Server on the other hand is a commercial application that will only work with the Windows operating system, something that could cause problems for businesses that only use Linux servers as it means that they will need to buy in their own Windows servers. By using Linux a business will be able to save a large amount of money over other operating systems since if a business was to use Microsoft Windows for its servers, it would have to purchase an individual license for each server whereas Linux is an open source operating system.
There are two versions of Zimbra – an open source edition and a commercial edition and although there are vast differences between the two different versions, the same core lies at the heart of both versions. Microsoft Exchange Server is also available in two versions – Standard and Enterprise; the Standard Edition of Microsoft Exchange Server comes with individual user storage limits although it is cheaper than the Enterprise Edition. If a business is looking to make use of an enterprise-level collaboration setup without spending a vast amount of money then it is a good idea to have a dabble with the open source version of Zimbra – however, a high specification dedicated server will still be required in order for you to be able to make the most of the application. The price of Microsoft Exchange Server is something that can only usually be justified by large companies who employ many people since otherwise it just isn’t cost effective for most businesses.
Both Zimbra and Microsoft Exchange Server come with AJAX-based web interfaces that will provide you with full access to the information stored within your user account including all of your contacts, emails and calendar items. Web access is something that isn’t so important in this day and age as mobile devices such as iPhones and Blackberrys can be fully synchronized with Zimbra and Microsoft Exchange accounts; however, the richness and usability of the web interfaces provided by both is something that should still be taken into consideration as your employees may prefer to access their account via a web browser every once in a while.
Sharing is one of the main principles that both have systems have been built around, although Zimbra and Microsoft Exchange Server deliver sharing facilities in different ways. One of the most popular features of Microsoft Exchange Server is ‘Public Folders’ that allows each individual Microsoft Exchange user to post items and files that can then be viewed by others. Zimbra lacks such a feature although it will still allow you to share calendar items and contacts with other users easily. Personal tasks and shared tasks are another popular feature of Microsoft Exchange Server since they will allow you to keep tabs on your own activities that have to completed as well as those responsibilities that you may be sharing with others.
Web hosting services offered by inslyHost can provide you with hosted solutions for both Microsoft Exchange Server and Zimbra which will be of benefit to you if you are indecisive as to which solution to use because you will then be able to trial them both for yourself. Hosted services are ideal for smaller businesses that may not necessarily be able to fund their own IT hardware but still require the use of a large collaboration system. Similarly, hosted services will also offer you better reliability and security than if you were to use your own single server setup.
In conclusion, both Microsoft Exchange Server and Zimbra are viable solutions for businesses that are looking to use a central collaboration system to help employees work better with each other and to streamline their methods of communication. Although Microsoft Exchange Server may be the more expensive solution, it can offer a large number of and generally more practical solutions than Zimbra. However, for a low price Zimbra can offer you a highly usable solution that is capable of meeting business’s requirements at a fraction of the cost of Microsoft Exchange Server.
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