Zimbra 8 groupware review: it's everywhere and it's friendly

Kangaroot can install a Zimbra groupware server on your premises

Zimbra started out as an open source project back in 2006, focusing on improving email collaboration. Zimbra is the collaboration and communication engine behind 85 million commercial mailboxes across 250 000 organisations worldwide, which makes it the number three email application behind Exchange and Gmail. Since 13 September 2012, Zimbra 8 is available to the public. Based on feedback from customers, VMware has invested lots of effort into unified communications, cloud integration and easier mobile user experience. We upgraded to Zimbra 8 ourselves.

Compatibility and mobility

All the information contained in the user's personal Zimbra 8 cloud such as email, voice, social, calendar, address book and enterprise application can be accessed through any device. Outlook and other desktop clients are supported through MAPI, POP, IMAP, CalDav, and CardDAV; mobile devices are supported via Exchange ActiveSync and BES. Zimbra can also share information with Exchange and Active Directory via LDAP and WebDAV... so BYOD. You can also import your Yahoo Calendar or Google Agenda without a hassle. A connector for Outlook on Mac isn't supported yet.

User interface

Users can access Zimbra 8 through the web, supported browsers are Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Chrome. The standard HTML version works nicely for older browsers and slow internet connections. The advanced AJAX interface has application features such as drag and drop of files onto email windows, WYSIWYG composition and easy-to-customize filters. The user interface has been simplified, it looks cleaner than Zimbra 7.2. Many functions that you don't use frequently have been moved from buttons to menus.

Zimbra 8 has a conversation view for email, messages with the same subject are grouped together and sorted chronologically. There are more options for rules and message filters and the search function has been improved to include about 200 types of email attachments. The search function has its own separate tab, so you can continue your work while it searches.

You can define your own distribution lists. Make one for a department or for a new project where you include all colleagues involved, so you don't have to type each address every time you send them an email.

Unified communications

VMware has partnered with Cisco and Mitel to offer unified communications capabilities all within the Zimbra Web App. Zimbra supports Visual Voicemail, embedded Cisco Webex and chat-out-of-the-box, among others. If this applies to you, there are more details in this blog post.

Here's the FAQ and the press release regarding Zimbra 8.

Easy administration

Maintaining Zimbra 8 Server on your premises takes 33% less time than Microsoft Exchange. Administrators can use an easy web-based console to manage provisioning and policies for all types of users. Full or incremental backups can be made and restored in real time, while users are still connected.

What we think

There were a few minor errors since not all Zimlets are compatible with Zimbra 8 yet, but that is to be expected for a new major release. The first time you log into your account, Zimbra will ask you if it needs to become your default mail client for email links in websites. Handy.
The user interface in a web browser has been cleaned up so it uses less screen real estate. We appreciated the improved simplicity, after we got used to the lack of icons and the different position of the search bar. In the main email list, icons for tagging, flagging and priority no longer work as a filter but as a sorting mechanism. This takes a bit of getting used to. If you want to filter your mails, you can do this through the separate search tab.

We have installed Zimbra Server on premises of organisations with three to 1200 people. Talk to us if you want us to show you a demo through a web conference.

Erica (communication)
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