Groupware and Collaboration
Given the necessary heavy emphasis on security, “Collaboration is a nice-to-have, but it is not critical. Corporations are not able to dedicate the budget to collaboration that they are able to reserve for security,” explains Radicati’s Takahashi.
Most organizations that do employ collaboration tools like calendaring, task scheduling, and instant messaging rely on the combination of Microsoft Exchange server and Microsoft Outlook client. Several alternative e-mail servers have begun to nudge their way into the groupware space, either through connections with the Microsoft platform or building their own.
Both Kerio Mail Server and CommuniGate Pro, for example, are mail servers that offer MAPI connectors for Microsoft Outlook users. Using these connectors, Outlook users can connect to these mail servers, rather than a Microsoft Exchange server, to take advantage of collaboration features.
Some products take a different approach to groupware. Both FirstClass and FTGate4 messaging servers go beyond traditional e-mail and into collaboration features that can be accessed using their own client software, the FirstClass client and Floosietek’s SolSight, respectively. These vendors have sought to fully replace, rather than integrate with, the Microsoft groupware chain on both the server and client sides.
Two forces have pushed the matter of e-mail archival further to the center of enterprises’ radar. Given the massive volume of e-mail coming and going at organizations of all sizes, the need for routine backup is vital. Moving ever-growing stacks of e-mail to offline archives and reducing the load for online storage has given rise to third-party archival tools.
E-mail users have gone from appreciating to expecting remote Web-based access to their e-mail, a trend that many in the e-mail server market quickly caught on to.
The other push has been legislative measures, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the United States, and the increasing relevance of e-mail to matters of legal discovery in general. In some cases, businesses may need to retain copies of all incoming and outgoing e-mail for as long as seven years. To hasten the retrieval of messages and ensure their integrity, archival tools must not only maintain detailed indexes but also track through the event logs every action in the life cycle of a message.
Given the rigorous demands of e-mail archives, most of the heavy lifting has been left to third-party products. At best, e-mail servers may include facilities for integrating third-party archival tools, such as Microsoft Exchange’s “journaling” feature, which keeps duplicate copies of all messages passing through the server in a special catch-all account. But for serious e-mail archival, particularly for compliance purposes, the action is taking place outside the e-mail server market itself. Products like Connected ArchiveStore and ZipLip are independent solutions for tackling the complex requirements of maintaining trustworthy archives.
Popularized at first by free, advertising-supported services such as Yahoo! Mail and Microsoft’s Hotmail, a significant percentage of e-mail users now expect Web-based e-mail interfaces. In addition to being simpler to use than typical locally installed e-mail clients, Webmail makes e-mail available from anywhere.
As a result, more and more e-mail servers are including a Webmail component. E-mail users have gone from appreciating to expecting remote Web-based access to their e-mail, a trend that many in the e-mail server market quickly caught on to.
Security will probably remain the e-mail server focus for 2005, as servers grow more sophisticated in their ability to minimize the crushing weight of unsolicited messages. Expect to see a wider implementation of tools to enforce e-mail authenticity and challenge messages with questionable origins.
Because of strong competition, particularly in the Windows e-mail server market, groupware and collaboration tools will also continue to evolve as a way to differentiate products from each other as well as to compete with the de facto standard that Microsoft Exchange has set.