Much More Than a Mail Server, Gordano Messaging Suite

By Juliet Kemp (Send Email)
Posted May 6, 2010


You may already be familiar with Gordano Messaging Suite, whose mail server component was reviewed here on ServerWatch earlier in the year. GMS is a fully-featured email and collaboration suite alternative to Microsoft Exchange that has been around since 2002 (before which it was known as NTMail). The latest incarnation, v17, introduced document management facilities to go along with the other tools, and we at ServerWatch decided to take a look at the new features.

We tested the Linux Intel version, available from the Gordano website as a full-featured 28-day free trial (pricing thereafter depends on how many licenses you will need).

Setting Up the Mail Server

The document management system is part of the WebMail client (although you'll also need to select the Web Organizer module when installing). It allows users to store and share documents server-side. It provides a revision history, user controls on read and write access, and a browser-based preview of certain types of file (e.g., text, image and PDF). Other types of files can still be stored and shared. However, they must be downloaded locally to be viewed.

A couple of minor installation points: Firstly, move the tar archive into a new directory before unzipping it, as unfortunately (and slightly irritatingly) it won't create one itself. Secondly, while the readme.txt file makes no reference to Linux installation, the ./install script does do the right thing, and you can reinstall over an existing install if you make any mistakes. If you find yourself in this situation, it's best to stop the various parts of the server by hand before re-running the install script.

Unfortunately, GMS doesn't support Firefox at the client end, but it does support Chrome (and Safari, if you have a Mac available). By default, on the Linux version of Chrome, all pop-up windows are disabled. You'll need to change this under Options->Under the Bonnet->Content settings for most of the Gordano buttons to work.

Creating, Accessing and Sharing Documents

Once you've installed GMS and set up a test user, you can try out the document management. To create a new document, hit the Document button on the top menu bar. You'll be given the option of either uploading a file from your desktop or creating a new document in HTML using a rich text editor type interface. You don't have access in this format to the actual HTML, but you can download the file and edit it directly. I found the Save button at the top of the document creation pop-up a little counter-intuitive -- I kept expecting to find it at the bottom.

The documentation on the website indicates that PDFs should be previewable within the browser. However, this didn't appear to be the case in either Chrome (on Linux) or Safari (on Mac). Text files, HTML (both created within Gordano and uploaded from the desktop) and JPGs previewed fine.


The document management pane
Figure 1
The document management pane

You can organize your documents into multiple folders, which is helpful when setting up access restrictions. Add more folders under the "Documents" tab as a subset of My Documents. Note that these use Windows-style backslashes in their names.

The access restrictions on a particular folder are set under the "Preferences-Preferences-Documents" tab. You can choose specific people or groups of people to give access to, and how much access to give them (read-only or read and write, known as 'manage'). However, you can set detailed access levels only on a per-folder basis, not per-document. If a user has access to a particular folder, he'll also have access even to documents marked "private" within that folder. (Thus, if they have manage access, they could change "private" documents to "public.") It's important, therefore, to create and use multiple folders if you wish to be keep some documents private!

Once you have permission to access another user's documents, click on the Documents button on the bottom left-hand panel, then the "Documents" root folder in the top left-hand panel. Under the "Shared" tab you can add any available shared folders. If none are available, none will show up to be added.

You can now access any shared files for which you have permissions.

If you have 'manage' permissions, you can edit files that are in HTML format, or upload new versions of other files. The file information will show who last edited the file and a date, but it doesn't provide actual version control. I also couldn't find any detailed revision history, although again the documentation indicated some sort of revision control is available.

Conclusion

GMS does now have a functional way of sharing documents, but, at least for Linux users, some of the features (e.g., PDF preview) don't seem to be quite there yet, and the Linux browser support is very limited. It's certainly usable, though, and if you'd rather keep your documents locally than use a cloud-based solution like Google Docs, it may be a more manageable option than simply sharing directories between desktops. It would be particularly useful if you have many users who work from laptops, or if you want to be able to save energy by switching desktop machines off when they're not in use.

GMS a promising product, and well-worth investigating, but it would be nice to see a bit more Linux support (in particular, support for Firefox, the lack of which is a serious issue), and more comprehensive revision history management.

Juliet Kemp has been messing around with Linux systems, for financial reward and otherwise, for about a decade. She is also the author of "Linux System Administration Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach" (Apress, 2009).

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