Science and technology

5 open supply alternate options to Microsoft Exchange

For a long time, Microsoft Exchange has dominated the marketplace for electronic mail and groupware providers. This high canine dominates the company world, and the omnipresent Outlook mail shopper has change into the de facto commonplace for groupware. Since Exchange is intently built-in with Microsoft’s Office merchandise, customers have entry to all kinds of productiveness software program and options, whether or not they’re utilizing a desktop or a cell shopper.

However, many corporations have issues about storing their knowledge within the Microsoft cloud. In this text, I have a look at some open supply alternate options and their benefits. It’s not nearly changing into vendor-independent and decreasing prices; it is about utilizing software program with open requirements and a distinct stage of safety—for the groupware server itself and the working system behind it.

All 5 alternate options on this article are Linux-based. While grommunio, Kopano, Nextcloud, ownCloud, and the OX App Suite range broadly in performance and are subsequently enticing to various kinds of enterprises, all of them present free editions with the choice to buy paid help and add-ons. All candidates can both run on-prem or within the cloud. On high of that, all distributors supply a SaaS resolution for his or her software program.


grommunio, previously generally known as grammm, is revealed beneath the AGPLv3 license. It is developed and supported by the Austrian firm of the identical identify. Unlike Exchange, grommunio affords a mail server that is standards-compliant in addition to a completely useful groupware resolution with options like electronic mail, contacts, calendar, duties, file sharing, and extra. grommunio works with numerous open supply and proprietary mail shoppers, like Windows Mail, Outlook, Android, Apple Mail/iOS, Thunderbird, and many others., and helps each the older RPC over HTTP protocol and the Outlook commonplace protocol MAPI over HTTP. Also included: Exchange ActiveSync for cell gadgets and numerous commonplace protocols like CalDAV (calendar), CardDAV (deal with e book), IMAP, POP3, SMTP, and LDAP, in addition to Active Directory (for syncing of person accounts).

External open supply purposes present some options not supported by Microsoft’s API or protocols. For instance, the builders have built-in Jitsi (video and audio telephony), Mattermost (chat), and file sharing and syncing (ownCloud). grommunio can also be outfitted with fundamental cell gadget administration (MDM).

grommunio is designed for a really massive variety of customers and—similar to Exchange—helps database sharding (horizontal distribution of databases throughout a number of hosts). The versatile storage backend permits directors to increase their setup by including different servers or cloud accounts. grommunio makes use of a MySQL database for metadata solely, whereas all “content” comparable to mail and groupware objects are saved in a per-user SQLite database. For extra data on the underlying structure, please take a look on the manufacturer’s website.

The Community version is freed from cost and contains all grommunio options for as much as 5 person accounts. 


Kopano, from the German-Dutch software program producer Kopano, can also be AGPLv3-licensed and based mostly on the Zarafa software program stack. Unlike its predecessor, Kopano would not goal to be a mere alternative for Exchange. Instead, it is a full groupware resolution and contains real-time communication along with the usual options of electronic mail, contacts, calendar, duties, notes, and doc modifying. Kopano interacts with many other platforms, purposes, and providers. Some of them can simply be built-in by plugins. For video conferencing, the Kopano group has developed its personal open supply resolution based mostly on WebRTC: Kopano Meet affords end-to-end encryption and is accessible for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

Outlook shoppers are supported through ActiveSync (Z-Push library) or the Kopano OL Extension (KOE), which serves as an enhancement to the already included ActiveSync. Kopano affords a local internet shopper (WebApp), a shopper for cell gadgets (Mobility), and a desktop model (DeskApp) with help for Windows, Linux, and macOS. Connecting different shoppers is feasible through IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV. All purposes immediately connecting to the Kopano Server use MAPI in SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol).

Free neighborhood variations can be found for Kopano Groupware and Kopano ONE (a particular version of the Kopano Groupware). Kopano Meet might be downloaded as an software or container.


Nextcloud, with workplaces in Stuttgart and Berlin (Germany), is licensed beneath the AGPLv3. Like in ownCloud or Dropbox, customers can entry the software program suite through their desktops (Windows, Linux, and macOS), internet browsers, or native apps (Android and iOS). Since model 18, Nextcloud contains Nextcloud Talk (calls, chats, and internet conferences) and Nextcloud Groupware (calendar, contacts, and mail) along with Nextcloud Files (file sync and share), and adjusted its identify to Nextcloud Hub.

User and group administration occurs through OpenID or LDAP. Various storage backends are supported, comparable to FTP, S3, and Dropbox. Nextcloud works with a number of database administration techniques, together with PostgreSQL, MariaDB, SQLite, and Oracle Database. Admins can lengthen the performance with greater than 200 apps from the Nextcloud app store. Offerings embody real-time communication, audio and video chat, process administration, mail, and plenty of extra.

Nextcloud is totally freed from cost. On high of that, the corporate affords a Nextcloud Enterprise construct (pre-configured, optimized, and hardened for enterprise deployments). 


ownCloud is a file sync, share, and content material collaboration software program developed and maintained by ownCloud GmbH in Nuremberg, Germany. The core of the client-server software program and plenty of neighborhood apps are revealed beneath the AGPLv3. Several enterprise apps which lengthen the performance are licensed beneath the ownCloud Commercial License (OCL).

ownCloud is especially a content material collaboration software program, together with on-line workplace doc modifying, calendar, contact synchronization, and many others. Mobile shoppers can be found for Android and iOS, and the desktop app integrates into the native file managers in Windows, macOS, and Linux. The Web interface permits entry with out putting in devoted shopper software program. ownCloud helps WebDAV, CalDAV, and CardDAV. LDAP is included, however ownCloud additionally connects to different Identity Providers supporting the OpenID Connect authentication commonplace.

ownCloud affords integrations for Microsoft Office Online Server, Office 365, and Microsoft Teams. Plugins for Microsoft Outlook and eM Client can be found. If obligatory, the External Storage Feature connects to totally different storage suppliers, like Amazon S3, Dropbox, Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, Windows community drives (SMB), and FTP. The vendor additionally affords extra options for enterprise prospects, like end-to-end encryption, ransomware and antivirus safety, and many others. (see the full list of features).

The Community version is freed from cost and 100% open supply.  

OX App Suite

Open-Xchange was based in 2005 with headquarters in Olpe and Nuremberg, Germany. Today, OX has workplaces in numerous European international locations, the USA, and Japan. The OX App Suite is a modular electronic mail, communication, and collaboration platform, primarily designed for telcos, internet hosting corporations, and different suppliers delivering cloud-based providers.

The backend is launched beneath the GPLv2, the frontend (UI) beneath the AGPLv3. Users can entry the app suite through their most well-liked browser (absolutely customizable portal) or a cell app (Android and iOS). Alternatively, native shoppers (cell gadgets and desktops) can be found for OX Mail and OX Drive. Thanks to CardDAV and CalDAV extensions, Exchange Active Sync, and the OX Sync App for Android, synchronization of contacts, calendars, and duties is feasible.

OX App Suite comprises apps for electronic mail, contacts, calendars, and duties. Additional instruments and extensions—some open supply, some paid options—can be found, together with OX Documents (textual content paperwork, spreadsheets, displays), OX Drive (handle, share, and synchronize recordsdata), OX Guard (encryption of emails and recordsdata), and extra. For a whole checklist, please go to the OX web site for general terms and conditions.

A neighborhood version with restricted options is accessible at no cost.  

Open supply electronic mail and groupware

Email and groupware providers do not must value (numerous) cash, and there’s definitely no have to accept a proprietary resolution hosted on another person’s server. If you are not too eager on the executive obligations, although, all 5 open supply Exchange alternate options can be found as SaaS options. Alternatively, all distributors supply skilled tech help, and you’ll run the software program on-premise—at all times in management, however by no means alone.

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