We're currently languishing in the 19th century as far as email is concerned - RM Easymail as provided by the CC isn't the best way to do it in my opinion. I had originally planned to go down the Exchange route, but it seems like the costs will be too great, so I'm interested in an open source alternative.
I gather several people on here have had success with Zimbra, so i have some questions:
Is the free version sufficiently full-featured to use longterm? To put in perspective, our users currently log in to a webmail client everytime they want to access email, so Outlook integration isn't necessarily an expectation.
Is it possible, with the free version, to use IMAP for those users who might still want Outlook (or any other compatible email software). I've an idea that POP3 is possible, but i don't want email stores spread over every PC on site and not backed up..
Is AD integration possible for automatic account set up?
Any other advice? Alternative suggests? Shortcuts to make things easier? I've had some exposure to Ubuntu in the past, but don't want to make things more difficult for myself by using a GUI-less server edition of the OS - I'm presuming Zimbra will work alright on the normal desktop version?
It is fully-featured for use - the only things you benefit if you pay is the support, Blackberry/push mail, hot backup etc.
We use exclusively the web client too to avoid nasty Outlook PST problems with profiles and so everyone is using the same interface (easier from support and training perspective). We use Mozilla Prism as a front-end client to the web interface because it's rendering engine is far superior and quicker than IE, gives the users of an "application" feel, can have popup notifications, and is separate from the machine's web browser. I developed a small C# launcher program for this too that makes use of Zimbra's pre-authentication functionality to provide seamless and passwordless logins on the network.
A GUI is an unnecessary overhead on a server - it's better to manage files via WinSCP or a console session via PuTTY and SSH.
Whatever you use make sure it's a version that's listed as compatible, such as the Ubuntu LTS server versions, you can have issues with missing packages during install and upgrades if you don't. It's best to start with the basic ubuntu server install without any existing apache/sql installed.
Thanks for all the advice so far - looks like it should be pretty useful! A couple more queries - has anyone got a handy screen shot of the web interface, and how is performance on middling server hardware?
We're a small school - so no more than 700 users, the majority of which are pupils and may well be happy with our up-coming VLE's email provision. Its really the staff who have the major issues with Easymail, so i'm guessing quite a modest server would do the trick.
Just a quick point - if you don't like using a command line, Webmin might be a useful alternative to a full GUI install. I haven't used it for some time, but I found it useful before I became confident enough to just use a command line.