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Options For Good (Not Expensive) Office Backbone For a Small Startup

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the office-with-small-o-is-fine dept.

Software 204

An anonymous reader writes "I recently joined a startup, we have about 10 people altogether in various roles / responsibilities, and I handle most of the system / IT responsibilities (when I'm not in my primary role, which is software development). When trying to price licenses, I'm finding Microsoft offerings require quite a bit of upfront cost, so I'm trying the alternative solutions. LibreOffice and Google Docs work fine for the most part (we also have some MS Office users); however I'm having trouble getting a good / cheap / free solution to email, contacts, calendaring and user management in general. We have some Mac users, Windows users, need desktop clients for most of these uses as well — and there doesn't seem to be a solution that satisfies these myriad combinations." (Read more, below.)Our submitter continues: iCloud doesn't natively support non addresses (workarounds seem prone to breakage so far), Windows Live Mail doesn't support Google's CalDAV, there doesn't seem to be anything that can provide a company-wide Contacts support, etc. Ideally I can deploy a solution that has the following: Sharing calendar (or look at other people's calendar), Company-wide Contacts Address Book, Add new employee / consultants and take them offline too (in terms of user permissions, access), Clients available on Windows, OSX, possibly mobile, which support the calendaring / meeting invites / contacts list set up. Maybe I'm just out of my depths here — can Slashdot provide some direction as to what I can look at? Or is a Hosted Exchange the cheapest option? Disclaimer: I did come from a company that uses Exchange / Outlook — but the costs seem high."

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Have You Accounted for User Preference? (5, Insightful)

rsmith84 (2540216) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087707)

What's the global consensus? Is everyone open to outside-the-box solutions? Or do they want the "comfort" and "warm fuzzy feeling" of Microsoft familiarity?

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087959)

You should be modded up to 11 because THAT is it in a nutshell. Sure you can go cheap, even free, but you ARE going to have a bit of a learning curve and users will have to learn new things as well. If they aren't willing to do this then honestly you really don't have a choice, because if they want it "just like Exchange" well then your only choice is exchange friend, it would be like saying "We want it to be just like photoshop" and then expecting you to pull it off with something like Corel Draw. it just ain't gonna happen unless you have support from on high and the users are willing to learn along with you.

As far as an answer to the question Google apps and Zimbra I've heard good things about but since i know longer do corp I can't tell you how close they are to Exchange. Sadly the best answer I'd found is no longer available, Xandros Server was $500 flat and no user CALs and to the users it felt a hell of a lot like Exchange, they had even bought licenses to a lot of the MSServer APIs so it would function as a member server in a domain. it was about as plug and play with MSFT software as I had ever seen but although their website still exists its just a zombie, the company has been dead since 09.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (2)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088681)

Google Apps isn't bad; they give you a plugin for Outlook which works quite nicely.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40089251)

Agreed. We use the microsoft stuff for work, but when businesses any smaller than ours ask me to work something out for them, it's usually Google Apps for email and such.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40089053)

There is truth in that, but this is a 10 person startup. 10 Whole people. If they're going to demand enterprise style IT, perhaps working at a startup isn't for them.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088009)

In a small business setting, the only user preference that matters (in the end) is that of the owners. Considering the OP is just a code monkey by day, and his/her organization does not have a full time IT person, supporting multiple options just does not make sense at all, and as the company grows will become a logistical nightmare.

OP - Have you looked into Zimbra?

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088027)

The users will just say "Microsoft Office" or "Lotus Notes" and those have already been struckout as too costly. QUOTE: "good / cheap / free solution to email, contacts, calendaring and user management in general?"

Mozilla seaMonkey has all of those. Or you could try the individually separate programs of Firefox, Thunderbird, et cetera. Or maybe OPERA which has not only those functions but also online support for storage.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088173)

The problem with solutions other the MS Office is that you will have issues with interacting with people outside your company.

Just do the partner thing and go with a barebones MS Office (PP, Word, Excel).

The other stuff can be handled using GMail or an internal IMAP server etc.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088827)

I'm in the same position in a small business (so we're no longer a start-up after 10+ years), and after trying the "free" software route for a while I went back to all MS. 90% of the people you hire come "pre-trained" in your typical Office applications, and the savings in training cost (my time and their time) easily pays for the licenses.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (5, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088959)

"The problem with solutions other the MS Office is that you will have issues with interacting with people outside your company."

This old lie again.

No you dont. WE have been on Open Office/Libre Office for over 3 years now here and have ZERO problems "interacting with people outside your company". WE can save as office format and read office format.

In fact we have less problems than one of our customers who is still on Office 2003.

Re:Have You Accounted for User Preference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088221)

small office with no real custom requirements - go for Gdocs or 365.

zimbra (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087719)

Zimbra I believe does most if not all of what you are looking for.

Re:zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087891)

I would agree with this, it seems to meet what you need.

Re:zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087903)

or openxchange

Kolab and Citadel (3, Informative)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087921)

Also look at Kolab and Citadel. They do what you need.

Re:zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087945)

Zimbra is the best choice. You can get it hosted if you do not wish to do it yourself. Parent company is VMWare.

Re:zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087999)

Zimbra I believe does most if not all of what you are looking for.

As somebody migrating from Zimbra to Exchange, I'd say go with Zimbra. It's a fantastic backend for a small-to-medium sized company. (The reasoning for our migration is unrelated to anything wrong with Zimbra.) The administration tools for Zimbra aren't quite as polished as they are for Exchange, but it's a pretty solid setup.

Re:zimbra (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088243)

Another vote for Zimbra. Email, global and personal address lists, calendar including invite system and sharing, resource booking, AD integration should you run a Windows domain...

It's what we use, and for "free" it's great.

Re:zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088355)

I have Just over 50 full time people. I free access to exchange through a Microsoft Action Pack, and we are moving to zimbra anyway. I would definately vote for zimbra

Re:zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088797)

Agreed, Zimbra does it.

Look into Zimbra (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087723)

Try looking into Zimbra, its like a cheaper, more extensible version of Exchange.

Re:Look into Zimbra (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 2 years ago | (#40089265)

Ughhhh... a company I worked with had Zimbra and it was terrible. It kind of did all of the things exchange did poorly.

Then they got bought out and now they use an ancient version of Exchange... which isn't much better.

I have no personal preference for exchange. I prefer Gmail. And I don't see why the OP can't mix it up.

Use Gmail for your mail service and use Microsoft Office for your word processing and Excel. The notion that your mail server and productivity software need to be the same seems misplaced.

One word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087733)


Re:One word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088289)

saying this having mod points and really wanting to like your post: you really want to add more words than one if it is a generic one that can not easily be googled.At least give a link or something.

More Google (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087741)

Have you considered Google Apps? It is free for up to 10 users. You can use Thunderbird with a couple of plugins to handle the desktop client or just have your people use the web apps which are very good.

Google for Business? (4, Informative)

MatrixCubed (583402) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087785) [] At $5/user/month, it's decently priced.

Re:Google for Business? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087909)

Seconded. We just switched to Google Apps and it works great. It has all the features asked for above, and great technical support thrown in with the service.

Re:Google for Business? (5, Insightful)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088091)

If you're not in the U.S., putting your data under U.S. jurisdiction *can* be an unacceptable risk.

Protections for non-citizens, non-residents are pretty slim.

Re:Google for Business? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088665)

+1 My company switched to Google Apps for Business about six months ago and it has been great so far, especially considering how incredibly affordable it is. Administration is easy, tons of additional services you can choose from, and did I mention how affordable it is? Plus, most users are already very familiar and comfortable with Gmail, and Google even has a neat tool that will migrate existing Outlook .pst's (email, contacts, even calendars) to a user's new Gmail account.

Thunderbird now has a plugin for MS exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087793)

+ tons of other plugins, including calendar stuff.

"Hosted exchange" (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087797)

Get an office365 subscription.

Hosted exchange + the full office suit. Honestly it's a decent way to do this until you decide to roll your own infrastructure. If you ever do. (We have it scaled across 15 companies and ~1200 users)

Re:"Hosted exchange" (2, Funny)

Windowser (191974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088403)

Get an office365 subscription.

Hosted exchange + the full office suit. Honestly it's a decent way to do this until you decide to roll your own infrastructure. If you ever do. (We have it scaled across 15 companies and ~1200 users)

And we all know what the 365 in the name means : it's down every February 29th

What about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087803)

What about Google Apps?

Free for 10 users. E-mail, calendar, notes, and docs. Can all be integrated into desktop clients.

If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (5, Informative)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087805)

Become a Partner. You get pretty much all of their software for 10 desktops and a couple of servers for less than $500 a year.

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (4, Interesting)

Gwala (309968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087847)

Yep - the magic words to google are "Microsoft Action Pack Subscription" - for startups it's great. Tons of useful software for cheap. You may also qualify for BizSpark which is even better (and cheaper - although $500 isnt too bad.)

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087877)

If you'd like to stay with Microsoft

why would you?

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088225)

Have you used Microsoft Server 2008 for managing desktops? It's fantastic.

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (3, Insightful)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088359)


99% of my customers run Windows and MS Office. That's the standard business environment. By sticking with it, I have fewer problems exchanging documents with my customers. That's a business expense that has to be accounted for. If your staff or customers can't open a spreadsheet, they're wasting their time and they drag IT into it, wasting more resources, and on top of that, you have angry, frustrated customers.

Personally, I like Outlook as a mail client. However, Exchange is awful to deal with. It's just not geared towards the smaller business. I would definately recommend either outsourcing the mail server or using something less complex. What you ultimately use will probably be dictated by what type of phones your employees carry.

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088499)

What's the cost of having to submit to BSA style audits and ending up burned when someone makes a mistake at work and installs something outside of license?

Imagine how much easier those go when you say "Everything is GPL, most of our systems can't run 90% of the apps you have on your list, now go screw yourself".

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088695)

"Everything is GPL, most of our systems can't run 90% of the apps you have on your list, now go screw yourself".

And the other 364 days of the year when you AREN'T getting audited but you ARE trying to get something productive done, you can tell your boss the same thing!

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088441)

I could be wrong here, but does the MAPS license specifically state that you CAN NOT use it in a for profit business, or in a production environment?

It's great for dev work, but I was pretty sure you're not allowed to use it for this purpose?

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (1)

Gwala (309968) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088543)

It varies on which version you get - some of them you can (or could - been a couple of years since I used it). That is a warning sign though - some of the dev ones (with visual studio/etc) are testing only, same as MSDN.

Re:If you'd like to stay with Microsoft (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40089225)

I'm amazed how many people are saying Microsoft. In essence you're saying Open Source solutions shouldn't even exist, because they are a non-starter. No wonder Intel and MS continues to hold a monopoly over the OS and Apps and computer platform since ~1988.

Google Apps + Thunderbird & Lightning (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087813)

Google Apps is free for up to 10 users, so go with that for centralized management of contacts, calendars, mail. Use Thunderbird + Lightning for email, calendaring, and contacts access on the client side. Pretty simple standard stuff really. Google Apps services can tie into most any client software you can think of. Only problem I have with Google Apps is no task syncing. Other than that it's solid.

Re:Google Apps + Thunderbird & Lightning (3, Informative)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087939)

Definitely this. The web clients are the best out there, plus Thunderbird + Lightning is less annoying than Outlook and works on everything. And I seriously doubt you could find a mobile device that doesn't support Gmail + Google Calendar.

Does this method have a good way to handle company-wide contact lists though? I guess you could setup your own LDAP server but I doubt Gmail's web interface will use it.

Re:Google Apps + Thunderbird & Lightning (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088203)

Thunderbird works fine with LDAP, and you can use the GMail IMAP facility so you never really need to use GMail webmail.

Re:Google Apps + Thunderbird & Lightning (1)

trodofor (1002830) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088351)

Seconded! While not a complete solution, our small company uses a similar setup. Google calendar works from the web, through Thunderbird and other calendar clients, and through both iOS and Android devices that our employees use. Multiple calendars can be shared and used on every device pretty seamlessly.

Contacts do pose a bit of a problem though, but it has not become a serious problem for our company yet. Storing my own contacts in Google makes it easy to access them on any device through Thunderbird (with addon), my iPhone, or of course the web. Sharing contacts is something that has yet to be solved efficiently.

Google Apps Free (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087839)

Google Apps Free might be a good fit. Free for up to 10 users, so it looks like you'd just make the grade. It would take care of your email, document, calendar sharing needs for the whopping cost of $0.

Also worth looking into would be what services your ISP offers to businesses. For example, I know Comcast offers hosted Exchange solutions to it's business class customers for little to no money. Of course you're marrying yourself to their service, but hey, free is free.

Overall, I'd wholeheartedly recommend Google Apps Free. You're free to move ISP's if you choose, and if you can successfully move everyone to using the web interface for gmail/calendar/contacts/docs/etc. you'll do away with a LOT of overhead. No more configuring outlook. No more (or reduced) need for a fileshare (share docs in google docs). It's a great solution for small operations.

Check this one out .... (4, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087843)

I would recommend checking out Sogo. [] This would provide a good groupware solution. In their upcoming version, 2.0, it will have some goodies like Exchange Server emulation so it will integrate well with those using Outlook. For collaboration, you can check out Alfresco. [] As for a common identity management solution therein lies the trick. If you are brave, you can check out using Samba4 and configure all of your clients to authenticate against their version of Active Directory. The Samba [] wiki has some good instructions on that. I know that there is an open source software package that helps integrate Linux with Active Directory but I cannot remember its name. It does get packaged with Ubuntu, however. Hope this helps some .....

Have you looked at... (2)

SpaceWiz (54904) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087845)

If you meet the requirements, why don't you do BizSpark [] ?

Pretty sure Google Apps for Business also meets your requirements, but it's around $50 per year per user.

How do the cloud services not work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087851)

Maybe I didn't read well enough, but it seems like Google Apps would fit all of your requirements. My small business has fewer than 10 employees and we use google docs, email, calendar, contacts, and the myriad other services to provide everything we need on that front.

These services don't come with desktop clients but, if you're looking for offline use (the only reason I can think you would need a client), Google Apps allows offline work. Plus, these services allow collaborative edited such that multiple people can all make changes to a document at the same time.

Web-Based Google (1)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087855)

When facing that much cross-platform usage, Id go with Google Docs/Calander/Chat/Gmail for simplicity and ease of use. Its somewhat feature-light, but would provide the broad base and low cost you are looking for. It probably will never be Great, but it may be Good Enough, at least until the startup grows enough to make larger, more expensive packages worth it.

Google Apps (1)

aaron44126 (2631375) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087861)

I see that you mentioned Google Docs, but have you looked at Google Apps for Business [] (runs on a domain of your choice)? There's a free version for up to 10 accounts. Otherwise, I think it is $50 per user per year.

It supports calendar sharing and company-wide contact sharing (from the web UI anyway). Though I think that the global contact list might be missing from the free version.

Google Apps? (1)

Necroman (61604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087871)

I didn't see you mention Google Apps [] . My company (500'ish people) are all on Google Apps and I really like it. Plus its free for up to 10 users, so you could at least give it a test drive. It integrates email, calendar, docs, and contacts all into one package (with names shared between each).

Google Docs (3, Insightful)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087875)

You said Google Docs works fine for the most part, but the Gmail / Calendaring portion doesn't work?

We are a startup (about 25 employees) and Google Docs works fine for Email and Calendaring.

Re:Google Docs (1)

johnwbyrd (251699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088609)

Another vote here for Google Apps and Docs.

You didn't mention other business apps like accounting and other admin functions, but I put in a vote for early virtualization of all your core apps, using VMware or Redhat or whatever your favorite virtualization platform is. When we founded our little company, we installed Quickbooks and SugarCRM and Perforce and a couple other business process apps on virtual machines, and that turned out to be a big win later on.

I'm not any sort of IT/implementation guy but... (4, Insightful)

Bourdain (683477) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087883) terms of real cost, my guess is that even if you buy whatever licenses you need/want from Microsoft for whatever software you have a need for, it won't really be that expensive compared to irritating your users (also, just use hosted exchange as $10/month/user should be a non-issue).

Before making any decisions, I'd consider asking your admittedly tiny user base what software/suites they need/want instead of just making blind purchasing decisions

Re:I'm not any sort of IT/implementation guy but.. (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#40089161)

This can't be stressed enough. Pay a premium for the highest level of service and support you can get. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but if you actually have money (as opposed to ten guys bootstrapping the business on cheetos and tap water) it will cost you less than the time you spend to get it done, and it WILL NOT BE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to keep it running smoothly. Never underestimate the time it takes to manage such a system if it's not your core function.

Think of it this way - your billing rate (and everyone at the company) is at least $100/hr. You'll need to explain this to management and get their blessing. In comparison to a 4 hour meeting telling them why it's worthwhile to have somebody else do it until your're at 50-100 employees, it wil take 4 meetings. 4pplx12hrsx100=$4800. If you have to train your users for half a day - just half a day - because it's new to them you've blown $4000. You'll spend a week figuring out how to make it all work and get the components installed. Another $4000. You're going to lose 2 hours a week per person to people not being able to figure new stuff out and screwing things up. That's $8000 in the first month. The first glitch you have will cost you 16 hours to troubleshoot and fix (if you're lucky). $1600. You'll do that three times a year (again, if your lucky). $4800. You'll spend 4 hours a month just keeping it patched and running. $4800/yr. So, if you actually have work to do in this startup, and you're not just sitting around idle, there's $30,000 at stake in the first year, maybe $20,000 the next. Now decide if it's worth a custom in-house solution.
(Note: if your cloud service goes down for 2 days, and they suck so much there's no local backup, you're still only out $16,000. Even Amazon's S3 faceplant wasn't that bad, and if you'd paid for their top tier distributed service it wouldn't have affected you)

Google Apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087905)

I believe Google Apps has everything you need there.

It's got the best calendar I've used and works great for collaboration.
It has Google Contacts for your address book.
The user management is simple and easy, you can import from various other systems with ease.

As for clients, there are web clients on nearly every platform and device and it can integrate with the Microsoft Office suite.

Lion Server? (3, Funny)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087911)

I've only used mine (and that's a Snow Leopard Server, not Lion) at home, but it would seem to support a lot of what you are asking for, including, I believe, workgroup management for Windows users. You'd need to find clients which would talk to the various server-side applications, and I'm afraid I've no experience of that.

Again from memory, and I may be wrong, my recollection is that Lion Server does not require client licences, so, once you've bought the box, and installed the software, you can connect as many people as it will handle, which might help keep costs down.

Re:Lion Server? (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087991)

Perhaps I should have said: calendaring uses CalDAV, and the address book uses CardDAV — whether or not there are Outlook connectors / addons for these, I don't know, but there appear to be at least some Windows-based clients for each (Cal [] , Card [] ). Although whether your userbase would want to use these rather than Outlook is perhaps more questionable.

Re:Lion Server? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088547)

Whoever modded this funny is a genious!!!

Research BizSpark... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40087923)

You should seriously look at Microsoft's BizSpark. The included MSDN license grants you access to almost every Microsoft product at an incredibly price (it used to be a one time fee of $100 ). Some licenses (like Office) are production level licenses, not just development licenses.

Easy -- Google Apps (4, Insightful)

blahbooboo (839709) | more than 2 years ago | (#40087927)

Just use Google Apps. Provides email, calendaring, etc all integrated and very inexpensive.

Zarafa (1)

PSVMOrnot (885854) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088059)

Have you had a look at Zarafa [] ? It's an open source replacement for exchange which handles email, calendaring and contacts. If you ran a server with this then your co-workers could connect with their favourite mail client/calender app, or use the webclient. It also supports Z-push which works like active sync for use with android and windows mobile devices.

I have an instance of it running on a custom built mythbuntu PVR at home to provide me with something other than google calendar to use with my android.

The downsides: the free community edition has some limits to it's features (eg: no multi-user calendar support), so you may need to fork out a few dollars if you need such.

Re:Zarafa (1)

geoffaus (623283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088581)

ok god no! We use this at my work and its always having issues

Count (1)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088081)

we have about 10 people

You're not sure how many people work at your company?

Re:Count (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088461)

I know very few who actually work at my company. But a small startup could easily have a few part time contract employees(like maybe accounting), and it sounds like they should really be contracting out their IT needs too.

zentyal/zarafa (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088085)

I just moved a smaller business (about 40 people) to zentyal. [] includes all sorts of features, like a PDC if you want one, ldap for user management, vpn, groupware (uses zarafa, which is excellent) and many, many other features.

Have you looked at hosting? (1)

neros1x (2492908) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088099)

I interviewed recently for a company that does cloud hosting for small businesses, including Microsoft Exchange and Office 365. That may be less expensive than doing it yourself, and they will do most of the IT work for you. They even did backups through the cloud, with thorough reports.

Homogenization (1)

Scutter (18425) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088155)

Definitely ask your users what they want to use. However, they're all going to say something different. You won't be able to make them all happy and certainly not for cheap/free. You may just have to pick one solution that everyone can live with and standardize the network in that solution. "Oh, you can't use $OTHER_DEVICE with our free solution? Well, you can either buy a copy yourself or use the solution we all agreed on." Supporting many different platforms is difficult and can be expensive.

ClearOS (1)

HideyoshiJP (1392619) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088169)

It has been some years since I have toyed with it, but you may wish to investigate ClearOS. It seemed to meet all your requirements, though whether they want something on-prem or hosted will make a difference, I'm sure. But to go along with some of these other commenters - if the users prefer Microsoft, it may be worth the money.

Google Werks Fer Me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088199)

Google Apps, search around to find the free version. Supports smart phones, email & calendar integration works. No sales people to talk to (initially) and a control panel gives you the control you need. And then when the company gets bigger, you can migrate to non-free, or pony up for your exchange server.

That said, Bourdain has a very solid point: if the users want exchange (after knowing the cost), the users get exchange. It's a startup, so everyone should be able to articulate their preference/price point. Just asking them "$5/month for Gmail or $X for exchange" is likely the right path.

office 365 or google docs (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088211)

10 people you shouldn't be thinking about managing your own servers. just pay for google docs or office 365.

from what i heard office is a lot better than google docs, but i never used it

Zarafa (1)

vawarayer (1035638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088219)

I am happy with Zarafa [] Web client on my Mac. The interface has been literally copy-pasted from Outlook, so you will not lose yourself in a new environment. I could also access my e-mail using IMAP or any other standard protocol. Free (community) version comes with 3 licenses for MAPI (real Microsoft Outlook) connections (Windows). Pay version is still cheaper than Microsoft Exchange and allows for up to unlimited Microsoft Outlook connections.

I use Z-Push [] on my iPod Touch (Microsoft ActiveSync-like technology) and it works like a charm. Overall, good documentation and possible integration with other systems. Available on Ubuntu's [] package management system - easy to install on some other linux distros.

What you want is Office365 (1)

bravecanadian (638315) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088253)

Subscription so there is a lack of up front cost and you still get the familiar Office software, Exchange email boxes and none of the headache of managing it yourself. []

Take a look @ Microsoft BizSpark Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088259)

Did you check Microsoft BizSpark:

you can try Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088279)

Have you tried Evolution? There are window$ and Linux versions, it is quite similar to Micro$oft Outlook

Cloud Hosting for only 10 People (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088395)

Cloud Hosting not only saves your money with licenses and hardware, but you also save money with backing up your data. Our company doesn't use Cloud Hosting, and it gets very expensive with all the equipment we have to maintain and license. We also have to maintain DR servers in-case of catastrophic failure. But the drawback to Cloud Hosting is raw processing/network speed, unless you can afford a very high speed Fiber WAN.

egroupware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088401)

egroupware, php based fully interoperable with IMAP4 and other stuff easy to run and loads of good tools and is fully GPL.

Horde (1)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088459)

Have you checked out Horde [] ? I think it does everything you're asking, except the desktop client.

The needing of a desktop client is, I think, your toughest requirement. If you can let that one go, it's easy.

Exchange server (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088505)

I know people hate this stuff... it's microsoft and thus evil... but if you want a user friendly, feature rich, small business email server... It's honestly pretty good.

I'm sure there are free linux alternatives... if you want go with one of them. I'm sure they're great too. I have a lot of experience with exchange and outlook. They're really good at what they do. And while it probably won't scale to google gmail levels it's actually very good even in enterprises.

Do what you like but I like exchange.

Novell Openworkgroup Suite for Small Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088513)

Check out Novell Openworkgroup Suite for Small Business

It is feature comparative to Exchange + SCCM + Sharepoint + Lync and fully supports Windows, Mac and Linux clients. It is a fairly inexpensive for a small shop. It comes with Novell Vibe as well which is turning into a really nice product for team collaboration, document management and process automation. They also have Vibe apps out for iOS and Android which is more than you can say for Sharepoint.

What about SBS? (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088565)

If you want Exchange, it's worth looking at SBS - it's pretty much all you'd need, and it works fine with mobile. Not sure about how OSX would play on the domain though.

Microsoft Office 365 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088585)

Microsoft Office 365 seems like a great fit for your organization.

Consider ownCloud (1)

Kaunt (530960) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088735)

If you want to store the data yourself, have a look at []

linux ftw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088775)

dude you need to research linux. don't touch microsoft products with a ten foot pole. You can create an entire office network with free software using a Linux server. If you build the server yourself from newegg you can get a pretty decent server for $200-$300 I did it for my company. Linux does require a lot more skill but way worth it! Microsoft products are way expensive and don't offer the quick upgrades and security fix that linux software get not to mention generally more stable and reliable.

Debian or Ubuntu Linux would be a great server OS. Postfix + Cyrus for email, Apache for web server, SMB for file sharing, etc. Just look it up!

Mac OS X Server (1)

Onkel Ringelhuth (667322) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088785)

If you have no religious objections, take a look at Apple's Mac Mini Server package. It's reasonably priced (for some value of reasonable), and supplies all the components you need, apart from that big external RAID you'll want for shares and back-ups. But, before you jump, check out this review [] .

office365 (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088837)

I just set up office365 for my Dad's small business. It costs $6/user/month if you just want email and online editing of word+excel+ppt, or $20/user/month if you want desktop versions of the software as well. (Both offer free trials). That's not a big upfront cost at all!

Hosted Office & Exchange - haters gonna hate! (1)

netmucus (883884) | more than 2 years ago | (#40088849)

Good God people, it's not that hard. Everyone wants to make it an Open Source issue - blah blah blah. You can get hosted Microsoft Office & Exchange for almost nothing per user per month when compared to the cost of a server, licensing and support if you do it yourself. It's a business expense dumb-ass and not only does it make everyone happy but means you don't have to manage physical machines. The cost savings allow you to spend more money on your bandwidth as well. You're all a bunch of Open Source idiots that DON'T UNDERSTAND BUSINESS (and probably think the Free Market and Capitalism is bad). I'm not the 1%, and I'm not the 99%, I'm an IT guy that understands the flow of business and economics. Quit making things so damn hard for everyone and get over yourselves.

Google Apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40088917)

I use it for my small business. Does everything we need.

You Fa1L It! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40089021)

Bizspark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40089065)

The MSFT Bizspark program is designed for startups in this stage of growth and gives you much of what you need for "free" initially if you qualify.

Hosted Exchange (1)

archaicTG (451371) | more than 2 years ago | (#40089133)

Hosted Microsoft platform hands down.

How much is your time worth? You have no dedicated IT staff and should be spending your time working on your company's product.

Yes, open source Exchange alternatives are getting better, and I really like Google Apps. How much time would it take to tweak the integration? How much time to develop workarounds for features that "just work" in Exchange? For a small organization you'll never get that investment back in cost savings.

$60/mo for 10 people is well worth the service you receive. Even the $200/mo for the full Exchange/Office bundle may be worth it.

MS Action Pack, just go with it.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40089193)

We have a similar situation. MS Action Pack works for us. The most critical item is your time, and if you go with anything out of the ordinary it's going to cost you your time and maybe sanity. We have not yet jumped to Hosted Exchange. We DO have an IT provider for anything that takes longer than 10 minutes for me to fix (and I don't even want to worry about Exchange frankly).

Enjoy the ride...


Been here multiple times (5, Informative)

vanye (7120) | more than 2 years ago | (#40089259)

As a founder of two startups we're been here multiple times. Here's what I've found.

Google (email and docs) works okay for very early stage (engineering only - no sales/marketing people - little need to communicate outside of the company).

As we got closer to launch and hired more outbound people we moved to using Hosted Exchange ( Outlook is the driving force here, I have code to write and don't want to spend my expensive time fixing email/calendar/desktop support issues.

For Office applications we joined the Microsoft ISV program where we get 10 licenses for all their office products for about $400 per year. That also includes MSDN access so engineering can use Visual Studio.

Engineering does not use Office, all internal engineering documents are on the hosted Wiki (Atlassian) - but the hosted Exchange comes with an Outlook license so developers use that. I will neither help or hinder the use of anything else.

Everyone uses Windows on their laptop - using VMware Workstation to run the Linux VMs used for development.

We run the entire business on hosted services (Intermedia, Atlassian, JungleDisk (backup) and VirtualPBX). Our monthly bill is ~$600 for a 25 person startup - core engineering is now about half the company.

We have ~60 servers - but all are for dev and test, there is no "IT overhead"

The issue is not that you can't make it something else work - but why ? Unless you're developing an office or email software its just not a good use of your expensive (unique) resources. The goal of your company should be to efficiently sell more of your products to people that are likely using Microsoft products (at least the decision makers). So for maximum interoperability and profession appearance use the products your customers are using.

(I use a Mac, but I cannot use it for anything for external communication (PowerPoint, Word etc) - somethings just look different to the Windows version (fonts, text positioning etc). Not all the time, but enough to make it unusable from a professional appearance point of view.

Microsoft Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40089313)

For a nominal fee, and easy scalability and normalized pricing. I would say go with Google Apps for your Domain, if users are flexible doing things a tad differently, or Microsoft Online. It just freaking works and it's cheap. You don't have to have on site servers, backups of those servers, admins for those servers, etc. It probably will be better uptime than a small office can afford to pay and do correctly. Both work great on mac, windows, linux.

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