The Zimbra collaboration suite provides an open source web-based communications solution tailored for the small business. This article explores what this new kid on the block has to offer.
Many organisations that I work with today have flexible and mixed working environments. Some staff are office based whilst others are remote workers, working from home or out ‘in the field’ with only occassional visits to the office. The Zimbra collaboration suite provides an open source web-based communications solution tailored for the small business.
The communications challenges facing many small businesses
Effective and efficient communication is crucial to the success of most organisations. However many organisations face infrastructural constraints which prevent communication in a mixed working environment. In practical terms this means that we are unable to store files, share contacts, schedule appointments or administer our email using a single system across the entire organisation. It is often the remote workers who face the biggest barriers as many of the communications tools they use are part of closed systems. This is where web-based communications tools come into their own.
Tools we use to communicate
Most people that I work with use a range of tools to communicate, for example:
- Face to face communications, from one to one’s to small group meetings, events, conferences
- Simple Messaging Systems (Text)
- Newsletters, bulletins and briefings
- Television and video
- CD ROMs
- Instant messaging (via laptop)
- Video conference (e.g. iChat)
- Voice over internet (e.g. Skype, iChat)
- Shared calendars
- Social networking sites
What is Zimbra?
The Zimbra Collaboration Suite http://www.zimbra.com/ is an open source technology for messaging and collaboration. It provides support for email, contacts and group calendaring, and consists of a server and client.
What is different about Zimbra?
Zimbra will enable small organisations to make the best use of what they have already got without having to invest huge amounts of money in a typical large scale enterprise solution. This flexibility will provide them with a great number of benefits. In addition Zimbra makes use of the latest web-based innovations which most large scale enterprise solutions are incapable of. For administrators this means easier management, better security and improved performance. For end-users this means its easier to find and share what you want. People will be able to store files, share contacts, schedule appointments or manage our email using a single system across an entire
What benefits would Zimbra give small organisations?
- Most geographically dispersed organisations with a mixed working environment use a range of email clients, mobile wireless devices, web browsers and operating systems. Zimbra works with all of them.
- Zimbra makes it easy to organise, find and share content using powerful search, tagging and collaborative features.
- The Zimbra browser client provides seamless integration of email, contacts and calendaring
- Zimbra also makes use other popular web services and applications such as Google/Yahoo Maps and Skype.
If you are interested in finding out more about Zimbra:
- read the overview of the technical details and support resources below or more detail in the Zimbra Data Sheet (PDF)
- visit http://www.zimbra.com/
- try the Flash demo or Hosted demo
- ask your email administrator to check out Zimbra
- look for third parties that are providing Zimbra as a hosted web service
Overview of the technical details
- The Zimbra Server supports existing desktop and wireless personal information management (PIM) clients via standard protocols like POP, IMAP, and iCalendar
- Zimbra will work with a range of email clients (Outlook, Mac Mail, Eudora etc), mobile wireless devices (Blackberry, Palm, Nokia, Motorola, PocketPC etc), browsers (InternetExplorer, Firefox, Safari etc) and operating systems (Windows, Mac etc): for example, Outlook, Thunderbird/Sunbird, Apple Mail/iCal, Evolution, Eudora, and Wireless IMAP.
- Developer Zone– share and read ideas and tools to get you started
- Forums – ask questions and participate in the Zimbra community
- Blog – read and coment on the latest thoughts from the Zimbra team
- Contribute– to the improvement of Zimbra
- Third-party open source projects– learn more about the open source technologies which Zimbra uses such as Linux, MySQL, Postfix, and Apache
- White papers– expert views on a wide range of related subjects
- Open source licensing– find out about the terms of the licensing for Zimbra.