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Best Corporate Email Systems

Updated on May 18, 2012

When you are looking for a corporate email system, these are the top alternatives:

  • Microsoft Exchange and Outlook
  • IBM Lotus Notes
  • Novell GroupWise
  • Google Apps for Business
  • Hosted Email at your ISP or Hosting Provider

Each has specific advantages but also downsides.

Microsoft Exchange and Outlook

This combination is the clear market leader. The majority of companies use Exchange Server to store email and Outlook as the client. Many system administrators are familiar with setting up Exchange, and the Outlook client with its combined Calendar functionality is generally seen as user-friendly. Major downsides are cost and vendor lock-in. Exchange and Outlook integrate well with Windows, but make less sense in a mixed environment with many Apple desktops and iPhone / Android mobile users. Often used to create a closed email environment out of security concerns, where it can be hard to get your email to outside systems. In fact there are specialized providers such as the MailGuevara Exchange Email Forwarding service that focus on solving this issue.

IBM Lotus Notes

This powerful collaboration suite offers a broad mix of email, calendar, contacts, instant messaging and forms / databases, and can easily be integrated with additional IBM products such as Symphony (office productivity suite) and Lotus Domino (web and application server). Its popularity is slowly decreasing, partly because of cost and partly because its do-it-all concept often collides with other corporate systems.

Novell GroupWise

Novell GroupWise is a main competitor of Lotus Notes, with a similar range of functionality and complexity. Being a Novell product it's also practically the only software that will still run on your NetWare environment. Not recommended for new installations.

Google Apps for Business

All of the alternatives listed above are solutions that are hosted on your own servers. In contrast, Google Apps runs on Google servers, so you save on hardware cost. Main advantages of this solution are low cost and quick setup (you can literally be up and running in a few minutes). Like other offers it includes a calendar, and even a simple online productivity suite. Naturally this solution depends on a reliable Internet connection, and also requires you to place some trust in Google's ability to keep your data safe.

Hosted Email at your ISP or Hosting Provider

This is another hosted solution, offered by most Internet Service Providers and Web Hosting providers. You will end up with whatever email platform the provider selected, which is often functional but simple. In particular the web mail interface is something to verify as in some cases it will be downright unusable. Even though this solution is often free (included with product you bought already) it is not recommended in general, as the other alternatives above are much better.

Do you agree with this assessment of the alternatives? What is your company using? Are you satisfied with it?

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