Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review
From the configuration part you will be able to guess what VMS can do and also what it cannot do (yet). It is important to notice that it supports Outlook but only in internet mode. This means that calendaring information, which can be shared, is not stored on the server but on the client in the outlook.pst file. This simply means that without a lot of work for the IT staff, users are supposed to always do their calendaring from the same computer. If you have a company where everyone has laptops or their own computer, no problem. But if you have users moving around and using different computers all the time, it becomes for calendaring work.
Solutions are there, though. For instance, you can put the outlook.pst file on a share on a file server. Make an f-drive on some file server where all users have a home directory and direct Outlook to look there. This will work for Outlook 97 and 2000. However, this means you have to configure every Outlook workstation in the company--possible, but it doesn't make you happy. It should be possible to configure the one button config scheme so that this is solved automatically when you configure Outlook. That is, the administrator fills in the details where he or she wants the outlook.pst file, and the config button makes this happen.
What is completely impossible with VMS is sharing duties on a user's calendar with another. Say, for example, the director has a secretary who administers his calendar. In Outlook the director could give the secretary a "role" that would allow the secretary to see and change entries in the director's agenda. This is currently not an option in VMS.
Overall, if I were to give Caldera a list, here's what I would say are already great:
LDAP support so that all users can search for other users (a sort of server-side contact list)
Sharing of busy/free information
One-button configuration for Outlook
The easy way to add/delete users and groups
The possibility for web mail
The possibility to use SSL for all e-mail traffic.
Things that should be added are:
A way to have all calendaring information appear on the server so that users can work from any location.
A way to better control the way calendaring duties are shared (the secretary options).
Some small wishes include:
Why does the VMS mail box only have an inbox folder, and is it possible to make folders other than the inbox folder? I would like a work folder next to my inbox folder.
It would be great if the Next buttons would appear on the screen when VMS is installing.
It would be nice if the sharing by FTP server would be turned on by default or if the administrator can set this to be on by default. Typing this in is a hassle.
When comparing VMS to the calendaring options of Exchange, I think it is relevant to compare the prices as well. VMS costs (for 25 users with e-mail support) $1,034 US. If you want 25 users more, add $799 US. Thus for 50 users, it would cost about $1,825 US. Microsoft Exchange will cost you a license for a 2000 server, a license for an Exchange 2000 server and 50 user licenses for the 2000 server, plus 50 user licenses for the Exchange server. When you include all the client licenses, it adds up to $6,275 US for the same amount of users.
Caldera's Volution Messaging Server has the potential to be a killer app, depending on the needs of a business and the money they want to spent. However, some details need to be improved.
Caldera says on their site that VMS can be integrated with the calendaring products of Steltor. Steltor has a Linux-based calendaring server with an Outlook connector that provides the features of the corporate configuration of Outlook. This server, including Outlook connectors (also web-based without connector), costs $2,065 US for 50 users, with a year's support included. You can download it for trial, and it's called Corporate Time server. That solution needs an IMAP mail server, which Caldera provides with VMS.
The management of Steltor has let me know that they are working on a partnership with Caldera, and they e-mailed me the following: "The objective is to offer a joint solution that includes the Volution Messaging Server and the Steltor Calendar Server."
This solution, if it takes the promise of the easy manageability of VMS and Outlook and the industrial strength of calendaring/scheduling solutions of Steltor, and it is one product that installs easily and is not as expensive as Exchange, can be the first Linux-based Exchange replacement I take to my colleagues using Microsoft and say, "Look, we can do the same work better and cheaper with Linux." Of course, you already can buy the two products and integrate them yourself now. In this sense, the product is already out there.
If you want to spend nothing at all for software, you can always use an e-mail server like the one from Mitel (www.e-smith.com), which is also easy to administer and free, and use a calendaring solution that is completely detached from e-mail. That way you can get rid of Outlook and Office and use StarOffice and Pegasus. A search on Freshmeat.net got me the next contenders that look promising and are all free: Project-Based Calendering System (www.pbcs.com), Amphora Light (www.amphora.ee/freeware), MimerDesk (www.mimerdesk.org) and PHProjekt (www.phprojekt.com).
In the meantime, I would say Linux surely has calendaring solutions and better ones are emerging. You can go for free, get the benefits of VMS or go all the way to industrial-strength VMS/Steltor. The choice is up to you.
Hans-Cees Speel has a college education as a biologist and later pursued memetics by costarting the Journal of Memetics. After a year of Windows server administration and Linux (router disk) experimenting, he became a UNIX/Linux product engineer.
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