ServersFTGate4 Offers Alternative to Exchange

FTGate4 Offers Alternative to Exchange




FTGate4: Complete mail server with groupware support

Looking for a complete mail system for Windows that’s less expensive than Exchange? Consider FTGate4, a feature-packed mail and collaboration server. Capabilities include calendaring, task list and contact management, IM, and shared folders.

Corporate inertia is difficult to overcome, which may partly explain why Microsoft’s combination of Exchange server and Outlook client remain the de facto e-mail-plus-groupware solution. A challenge to this status quo comes by way of the United Kingdom, in the name of FTGate4 from Floosietek. (We continue to hope that ‘floosie’ does not have the same meaning across the pond that it does in North America.) FTGate4 builds on the success of its earlier incarnation, FTGate Pro. Floosietek is positioning the offering as a complete solution that serves e-mail and groupware functions completely independent of Microsoft products and their associated costs and licensing requirements.

The complete server download is only about 6 MB and fills slightly less than 25 MB after the initial installation. The basic InstallShield process gives way, on completion, to FTGate4’s browser-based administration tool. From there, it walks you through the initial setup. FTGate4’s comprehensive administration interface defaults to a “verbose” mode and displays in-context help information on every configuration page. The interface is sophisticated in structure, if not design. All aspects of FTGate4’s wide array of features can be controlled through this interface from any Web browser.

Organizations that have yet to standardize around the Microsoft solution are in the best position to evaluate FTGate4 as a viable and affordable alternative.

On the server side, FTGate4 is both an e-mail server and a collaboration server. Its capabilities include calendaring, task list management, instant messaging, shared folders, and contact management. Any e-mail client can be used to access the e-mail features of FTGate4. To access the groupware features, users select either FTGate4’s Web-based WebMail interface or Floosietek’s local Windows client, called SolSight. The SolSight software is freely available for connecting to the FTGate4 server. FTGate4 does not support Microsoft Outlook for groupware features, although users can chose Outlook or Outlook Express as their e-mail client.

As an e-mail server, FTGate4 has its bases covered. The (E)SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 services all have secure, SSL-based encryption. Its multipronged approach to spam defense includes blacklisting and RBL services, as well as SPF validation, and a “learning” content filter known as UbeBlock2. FTGate4 can integrate with third-party anti-virus scanners or be configured to block or quarantine specific attachment file extensions.

In the groupware realm, FTGate4 supports multiple shared folders, address books, calendars, and task lists for each user. When accessed through FTGate4’s WebMail interface, both e-mail and groupware features are presented with a cohesive integration, so navigating from e-mail messages to calendars or tasks is a consistent experience.

For the administrator, FTGate4 provides the full complement of expected server maintenance features, including logs, archives, activity monitoring, and server statistics. Because everything is available through the browser-based administration interface, complete remote administration is entirely possible.

A common theme among FTGate4’s several interfaces — administration, WebMail, and SolSight — is a certain “rough around the edges” look and feel. But this shouldn’t take away from the fact that, at its very modest pricing scheme, FTGate4 is thorough and feature-packed. This is no half-hearted effort, either as a mail or groupware server. Organizations that have yet to standardize around the Microsoft solution are in the best position to evaluate FTGate4 as a viable and affordable alternative. For those already comfortable with the Microsoft way or coordinating with other such organizations, migrating to FTGate4 may prove more difficult, particularly because it lacks groupware support for Outlook.

Pros: Fully-baked as both an e-mail and groupware server; Affordable and simple licensing scheme; Complete alternative solution to Microsoft groupware.
Cons: Lack of groupware integration with Microsoft Outlook; Mildly stodgy interfaces; May fall prey to the “not what everyone else uses” syndrome.

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 2/2/2005
Original Review Version: 4.0

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