- Authentic Exchange experience
- Distributed domains
- Good mobile support
- Simple web-based management
- Webmail interface would benefit from updating
Until recently Kerio's Exchange alternative — Kerio Mail Server — has mainly sold to small businesses that are attracted by its simple management and multi-platform capabilities. However, with the latest release the company is looking to move upmarket: Kerio Connect benefits not just from a new name, but also delivers enhancements to better handle the needs of larger organisations.
At the heart of Kerio Connect is the same core SMTP mail server as before, complete with global address book, folder sharing and other collaboration features to match the Exchange offering. Unlike the Windows-only Exchange, however, Kerio Connect can also be hosted on Apple Mac and Linux platforms, with a VMware virtual appliance (based on the Centos Linux distro) another option.
All versions are quick and easy to install, typically taking under an hour to get working. Management is now handled via a web-based interface rather than the Windows/Linux consoles of previous implementations.
We found the interface very satisfying to use. One of the first tasks is, of course, to set up user accounts, which can be done manually or by mapping to Active Directory, LDAP or Apple's OpenDirectory service. Antivirus and anti-spam protection comes built in, with a McAfee engine supplied as standard and the option to add a second AV technology if required. On larger networks there's now support for 'distributed domains', whereby a single messaging domain can be hosted across multiple servers in different offices. This we found very easy to configure, enabling us to deliver a single global address book and much simpler sharing of information, task scheduling and so on — even though users were connected to servers in different geographical locations.
On the downside, messages have to be relayed through a single master server in a distributed domain, which could be an issue in the event of a server or network failure. However, from the user point of view nothing really needs to change, while the relaying issue can be addressed by adding extra redundancy at the server level.
As with earlier implementations, Kerio Connect comes with its own webmail client, along with support for both POP3 and IMAP clients. Mac users also get full groupware support for the Entourage client, plus support for the open CardDAV protocol to sync with the Apple address book in the latest Snow Leopard OS.
Like other Exchange alternative vendors, Kerio provides a plug-in for Outlook users, delivering an authentic Exchange-like experience that’s pretty difficult to distinguish from the real thing. The web client, too, is designed to emulate the same Outlook look-and-feel, and does so reasonably well; our only concern is a lack of customisation options.
Mobile users were already well catered for by the Kerio Mail Server, and there's support for even more devices in the Connect 7 release — including Google’s Nexus One and the Palm Pre. You can also change the default SMTP port used by the server in this release (from port 25 to 587), for locations where port 25 might be blocked (such as hotels and airports).
Backup and archiving tools are among other standard inclusions within Kerio Connect, which we found straightforward to set up and manage. It's remarkably affordable at £283 (ex. VAT) for the server and five user licences, with additional users costing £18.20 each (sold in blocks of 5). Kerio Connect is well supported, and particularly suitable for companies seeking an Exchange replacement or deploying a messaging/collaboration server for the first time.