A good groupware is essential for organising the daily workflow and collaboration with as little waste as possible. Communication via e-mail, calendar administration or the management of shared documents often characterises everyday work, so the appropriate software should support your own work routines. Many companies currently use Microsoft Exchange as groupware. But the awareness of digital sovereignty is growing and criticism of digital dependence on US providers is becoming louder. The dependency increases even more when providers push cloud-based applications and make it difficult or even impossible to run them on one’ s own server. It is therefore becoming increasingly important for companies to consider alternatives.
Exchange Alternatives: The best groupwares
In this article “Exchange-Alternativen: Die besten Groupwares” heise.de takes up the topic and presents the five best alternative providers – including Kopano. We have reviewed the article and add some aspects that we consider important:
Probably the best known paid alternative is Google Workplace, which is also an Office365 alternative. If you prefer a pure cloud solution and have to or want to meet only a few data protection requirements, the Google applications offer a good opportunity to work with a wide range of players quickly and quite easily. As a groupware substitution, however, it should be remembered that the applications only work via Google’s own cloud, which is ultimately subject to US law. It is not possible to run them on your own server.
In contrast, Kerio Connect, another alternative mentioned in the article, allows you to run the applications on your own servers – with Windows systems. Kerio Connect belongs to the Aurea Software Group with headquarters in Austin, Texas, USA. Aurea compares itself to Netflix or Spotify and advertises that it wants to expand its portfolio by purchasing technology; 17 acquisitions have already been made. Kerio Connect can be used on a subscription basis, there is no open source version available. Those who only want to say goodbye to Microsoft in part may find their solution here. At this point we would like to point out critically that a subscription for an all-in-solution may be attractive because it may seem convenient, but it carries more dependencies with it.
Open-Xchange is the software of a German company. It is genuinely intended as a Microsoft alternative. It is also subject to a fee and has a rather open structure. OX is recommended if you want to concentrate on e-mail via IMAP. If you need the combination of e-mail, calendar and task management, you are better equipped with a MAPI database, which is offered by Kopano e.g. Heise mentions as a disadvantage that the operation of Open-Xchange is only possible on the servers of the provider.
Another alternative is Zimbra, originally an open source software (no longer since version 9: https://kopano.com/digsov/to-be-or-not-to-be-the-influence-of-open-source-on-business-models/) which is installed on a Linux system and can be used via an e-mail client in the browser. There is a paid SaaS version where server operation, maintenance and support are taken over.
The Kopano groupware as an open source alternative is one of the few solutions in the Heise ranking of the best alternative providers that can be operated both: locally as a private cloud and in a cloud at any hoster/cloud provider of your choice. This means that with this solution users have complete control over their own data. The European provider Kopano, with headquarters in Germany and the Netherlands, will offer Kopano ONE, which in future enables users to choose directly between different cloud providers when purchasing. On the one hand, Kopano ONE is recommended for companies with up to 250 users, who are not necessarily at home in the command-line and want a quick, user-friendly setup via a configuration wizard. On the other hand, the Kopano groupware offers large companies or organizations with more than 250 users a powerful and customizable solution: Kopano’s RestAPI is MS Graph-compatible and especially interesting for the public sector to connect their additional applications to Kopano and become digitally sovereign.
There are very different alternatives to Microsoft Exchange. Which of these alternatives you choose depends almost entirely on your requirements and demands. Would you like to use your own server or the provider server structure or preferably have a free choice? Is it important to you that Office applications can be used as well? Do you prefer a provider subject to EU law or do you trust a US provider? Should the open source software only be viewable or should it also be customisable?
Our recommendation at this point: We prefer the customisable solution. Because it is not only important to have sovereignty over all data, but also to have the functions of a software under control. If the provider can change (or switch off) software functions at will, this means a lot of effort for you, i.e. costs: business processes and/or employees have to adapt – even with the smallest changes.