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I am in charge of planning a new email system for my company of about 150 users and we are looking for email solutions. We are looking to host the email in-house, and we are kind of looking towards Zimbra virtual appliance. I was wondering if anyone had good or bad experiences with this compared to an outlook/exchange setup. Also, how are the system requirements compared to an exchange setup?

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The Zimbra resource requirements are relatively lightweight compared to the needs for an Exchange 2010 system. I recently converted my firm's mail solution from a hosted Zimbra setup to an internal Exchange 2010 system. We are 100 users with ~570 public-facing mail addresses (from users, complex distribution groups and mail-enabled public folders).

The Zimbra system was hosted on a virtual machine within the hosting provider's environment. It was allocated:

1 virtual CPU at 2.33GHz (Intel L5410)
60GB of SAN-backed storage

The Exchange 2010 solution that replaced the above setup was also virtualized. It featured:

4 virtual CPUs at 2.66GHz (Intel E5640)
250GB of direct-attached storage

Either way, you need to look at the total costs of both solutions. Exchange is expensive, but full-featured. Zimbra can be either very economical or a terrible expense, depending on which offering you choose. In my firm's case, it was easier and less expensive to go with Exchange as we were locked into a $18k/year hosted Zimbra solution (nearly $11k in Zimbra licenses and the remainder in hosting fees), where Exchange was a one-time $15k with the licensing, backup and hardware solution. Yes, we could have gone to the free Open Source Edition of Zimbra, but the users wanted more Windows integration than Zimbra could provide.

What are your users used to? What type of system are you migrating from? Are you a mostly-Windows environment? Do you have Active Directory? If there are no expectations of full Exchange-like functionality, Zimbra is probably a good choice.

In my environment, Zimbra was just okay for my company's needs, but would fulfill 95% of the needs of many other businesses. In fact, I also use it for my personal mail solution (replacing Dovecot+Sendmail). On the plus side, it has a great web interface, is easy to administer, allows users to have full IMAP synchronization on their clients/mobile devices, has an easy backup/restore solution and is heavily cross-platform.

My negatives were cost (due to the premium solution that my predecessor selected), poor implementation of public/shared folders (that my users were used to having with Cyrus IMAP and Exchange), and a need for specific tuning to run a bit more efficiently.

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We are a 100% windows house, with a full domain environment. My users have been using lotus notes 6.5 for about two years so anything would be a better choice. We are just looking at different solutions. How does the new 2010 exchange and outlook seem to work; does is seem to run pretty smooth? – user66115 Jan 8 '11 at 19:56
I'd recommend Exchange if you're all Windows. Zimbra could also work. I have a mix of Linux and Mac along with the Windows users, as well as some non-domain users. The transition isn't super smooth. You'll want to get to an Windows 2008 Server environment and make sure AD is pristine. Leverage the services of a consultant to help prep the Exchange install (should be less than 12 hours of support with a good consultant). Other than that, Outlook works great with the solution. The Mac clients and webmail are also good. – ewwhite Jan 8 '11 at 20:06

As to the system requirements, I once had to install Zimbra on a VPS with 256 MB of RAM, albeit for only 5 users (it was an emergency, otherwise I would have never done it)... Anyway, the point is, Zimbra actually ran with 256mb of RAM. By contrast, Exchange 2010, if you are going to run all the roles on one server, won't install with less than 8, and it really really needs at least 12gb to run with any sort of speed...

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Tell that my company exchange 2010 running VERY nice with a dozen users and..... 2gb RAM ;) Out of which it does not use 512mb. Can it be your VPS just was freaking slow? – TomTom Jan 8 '11 at 19:08
Well, it was a linux VPS so it couldn't run exchange at all, now could it? :) You are running all the roles on a server with 2gb of RAM!? How many users?? – BenGC Jan 8 '11 at 19:16

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