Zimbra or Exchange email servers – which is better?

June 23, 2013 / Dedicated Servers

Email servers are an important consideration for businesses regardless of size because email constitutes a form of communication that is used by employees to communicate with one another much in the same way that they will be using it communicate with customers.

As email is likely to be one of the most used IT components in your business, it is important for you to invest in an infrastructure that will be able to handle every message that you receive and can offer the capacity required by your employees for the storage of their messages. In an enterprise environment there are two servers that provide a number of features based around a core email platform, these being Zimbra and Microsoft Exchange Server.

Whilst Zimbra is available as an open source platform, both email servers offer commercial variants for larger organisations; here we will discuss the commercial variants and the features offered, concluding with which is the best system.

User capacity

Zimbra is generally regarded as being less resource intensive than Exchange Server, therefore meaning in the long run that you will be able to host more users on a server running Zimbra than you would be able to do with the same machine running Exchange. Whilst both platforms are effectively limitless in the number of users that they are able to host, if you are able to host more users on a single machine then even if you are using a cluster of servers, this will save you money in the long-run as you expand your email setup.

Desktop and mobile capabilities

Exchange Server is the best platform in terms of desktop and mobile syncing capabilities as it is compatible with a number of different platforms. Whilst the Outlook email client is available on the desktop for Mac OSX and Windows systems, there are a number of third-party applications that support Exchange Server and are able to tap into some of its more complex features such as the global address book. In terms of mobile platform support, iOS has support for Exchange Server built into its core whilst Blackberry built its reputation on support for enterprise email systems. With the use of a third-party connector component, Zimbra can be natively integrated into desktop email clients such as Outlook and will act in pretty much the same way as Exchange when used with Outlook.

Web-based clients

Zimbra and Exchange both offer comprehensive web-based clients for access to services on the move. Whilst most people carry smartphones and other mobile devices that are capable of accessing either email platform directly, a web-based client is appropriate for scenarios where neither a mobile device nor a correctly configured desktop computer is available. Exchange provides Outlook Web Access, an application that is effectively the desktop Outlook in a web format, with a majority of the same features being present. Zimbra also offers a web-based interface that offers much of the same features as Outlook Web Access, including the ability to send and receive emails and access to the global address list.

As a conclusion, Zimbra is an email server designed for use in Linux environments and is based on Java, even though it will work on Windows. Exchange Server will only work on Windows servers as it is developed by Microsoft and this may prove to be the limiting factor where businesses choose not to use Windows in their IT infrastructures. The features offered by both platforms are very similar and ultimately the end-user will receive the same experience regardless of the platform that is chosen.

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