There are many reasons to like Microsoft’s Exchange Server, but there are also several reasons not to — chief among them are the high cost and lofty server requirements. Fortunately, there are many alternatives, including Gordano Mail Server, which has been around in one form or another pretty much as long as email has been a staple of the corporate world.
Gordano Mail Server cut its teeth at the dawn of email, and it has kept pace with the times. It also is but one module in Gordano’s feature-rich and moderately priced communications suite.
Over the years, Gordano Mail Server evolved from a basic mail server to become the cornerstone of a multi-platform messaging and collaboration suite. In its current iteration — version 16 — it’s available for Windows, Linux, Unix (Solaris/AIX) and as a VMware or Hyper-V virtual machine. We tested the Windows version, which we installed on a Windows 2008 Server machine.
Installation and Administration
It’s important to note upfront that because the mail server is but one specialized component of the modular Gordano Messaging Suite, there’s a good chance you may require other components to obtain all the features you need. The base mail server offers SMTP/POP/IMAP messaging (all SSL/TLS encrypted, if desired), but collaboration and groupware features like shared calendar and contacts are in separate modules. A Web Organizer module delivers them through Gordano’s own browser-based client, while a separate Collaboration module provides a MAPI connector, enabling their access via Outlook. Other available components include (proprietary protocol) IM and list servers. In addition, mail support features like anti-virus and anti-spam are sold in modules. All are provided as part of a single unified installer, and most are installed by default unless you deselect them.
|The GMS admin interface|
The install wizard will let you define the domain and specify whether Gordano Mail Server will authenticate users through Active Directory, LDAP, a SQL server or its own internal database. Further configuration of any installed components is handled through Gordano’s browser-based admin console. The Java-powered console lacks visual polish, and it’s not particularly user friendly or intuitive. On the plus side, there are context-sensitive help links that will (usually) take you to more detail on whatever configuration options you’re looking at. If you’re willing to master Gordano’s proprietary command-line scripting language, called Mail Meta Language (MML), you can use it to extensively manage and customize myriad aspects of the server.
One of Gordano Mail Server’s major strengths is its excellent WebMail client. Formerly Java-based but recently reworked in AJAX, its look and feel is probably as close to Outlook as you can get in a browser. Drag and drop is supported for e-mail as well as calendaring. Another handy feature of the Webmail client is the ability to generate disposable addresses that go dark after a pre-determined amount of time. This is ideal for use in forums. In addition to the full-featured WebMail client, there are separate low-bandwith and mobile versions. There’s browser access — as well as a Windows client — for IM.
|The Gordano Web Client Interface|
Gordano Mail Server’s modular nature allows for configuration flexibility, but having to license multiple components can lead to convoluted pricing. For example, the mail server starts at $448 for 25 users. Adding Webmail and collaboration, not to mention anti-virus and anti-spam, all ring up additional license fees. (Individual component prices are available here.)
As an alternative to licensing components individually, Gordano recently implemented an additional CAL-based model that may be simpler and more cost effective depending on the usage scenario. As an example, a Standard CAL provides mail/Webmail, collaboration, IM, and anti-spam for 25 users for $39.23 annually per user, while a $68.73 Premium CAL adds anti-virus and a higher level of spam protection. (Contact Gordano for a quote on CAL-based licensing.)
Licensing options aside, firms that don’t want to shell out for shiny new server hardware will likely appreciate Gordano’s extremely modest system requirements; for 100 users, a 450 MHz CPU and 256 MB of RAM will suffice, and there’s no 64-bit OS requirement like with Exchange 2007.
Gordano Mail Server is available as trial download with a 28-day and 43-account limit, but no limit on data transfer.
Price: Varies, starting at $448 for 25 users
Pros: Integrated yet modular architecture; excellent WebMail client; low server hardware requirements
Cons: Base mail server doesn’t include collaboration features, anti-virus, or anti-spam
Joseph Moran is co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7 (friends of ED, 2009).