<i>Time Out New York</i> communicates with Zimbra

Time Out New York is a weekly magazine that wanted to control its IT, and so went with Zimbra. Lower cost, higher value: that's the open source way.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

I asked people to share with me their experiences moving to Zimbra, and I've had a great deal of responses. One, in particular, I found interesting from Time Out New York. I glommed onto this one immediately because I reference Time Out whenever I'm in London. It's the best source of information for what's going on.

Jeffrey Vargas of Time Out New York related: [Used with his permission]

Time Out New York is a weekly print publication, so we rely heavily on Macs. Out of 150 computers, about 125 are Macs. Even are servers are Xserves, for a majority of our work.

We've been using Apple's mail services in OS X since 10.2. After a messy migration to OS X 10.3 and several issues with an update from OS X 10.3.8, we were over frustrated with Apple's frugal mail services.

Having upgraded to two new Intel Xeon servers late last year, we were looking for new alternatives and hoping to stave off pressure to move to Exchange. Two Apple staffers recommended taking a look at Zimbra. We installed it on the newest server and began testing it using an available domain name that had been purchased for use in an issue the previous winter.

We immediately loved the web interface for users which was much better than Apple's Squirrelmail webmail offering. More importantly we had a simple solution for out-of-the-office replies, a nice LDAP-powered user directory, a web-powered admin interface and integration to iCal and Address Book.

It hasn't been without some hiccups. Setting it up can be somewhat tricky, but Zimbra support is usually pretty helpful. It's the one area where they could definitely use more resources.

I asked Jeffrey to comment on how Time Out which email clients they use, and why they didn't just go with Exchange (with Mac support). He replied:

Most clients use Entourage, although some have moved to Apple's Mail because Entourage has crashed on them too many times - usually associated with the mail database filling up or exceeding the 4GB limit - and the PC-side users are all using Eudora. The web interface is mostly used by people when they are outside of the office or when they need to set up their out-of-office message.

We looked at Exchange and our concerns were technical and cost-specific. Getting exchange set up was going to cost a lot more money than we would have to spend with Zimbra. It would require some serious Exchange admin training and the purchase of an additional Windows server. Licensing also looked pretty steep, since we needed upwards of 200 mailboxes to accommodate our staff accounts, section accounts and the occasionaly issue/article specific e-mail. We were also concerned with how well Entourage v.X worked with Exchange, and the overall support that having Exchange would require from an administration side....

Because Zimbra's open-source, that was an option available to us. Exchange would have tied us to Windows Server and the software assurance packages were not appetizing for us.

There's an important point in there that most don't recognize: everyone thinks of Microsoft technology as inexpensive. Compared to its proprietary competition, this is often true. But Microsoft's software is not cheap, especially when you realize that it forces you to buy into the Microsoft ecosystem wholesale to get much benefit from it. In Time Out's case, Exchange requires Windows Server which then leads you to Sharepoint, Active Directory, etc. etc. You take one step in, you have to go 10 steps to get anything out.

This is fine for those who want to sign over their IT to Microsoft (or some other ecosystem player). It's not fine for anyone that wants to control their IT, and not be controlled by it. Time Out chose freedom. Good choice.