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Background

I'm working in a small company that is implementing and supporting network infrastructures in small business environments. Many times cost is a concern so I'm constantly looking for cheep / free solutions. Personally my favorite (at the moment) is openfire server (jabber) + pandion (jabber client).

Question

I would like to get some feedback from the community: what are you using / implementing as a communication infrastructure in small business environments.

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9 Answers 9

up vote 3 down vote accepted

OpenFire is awesome. If its a really small group (under 20 people) Google Apps has everything they need-shared calendars, email lists and contacts. Oh, and email of course. I have found that people enjoy being able to use gchat from their webmail window-and the fact that they can have access to all these tools from one website anywhere in the world is a big bonus.

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Had it working within minutes, sweet piece of software! –  l0c0b0x Sep 10 '12 at 22:58

Google Apps couldn't be simpler in requiring minimal configuration and administration.

However, GTalk doesn't allow group chats so I've often found myself installing openfire. It is simple to install and full featured.

From a client perspective I then have been suggesting: - OS X: Adium - Windows: Pidgin - Linux: Pidgin

If it is a very technical crowd I might consider irc over Jabber/XMPP just because Jabber still seems to be flaky occasionally but it is much more approachable than irc to a non-technical user.

For information which needs to be preserved beyond a chat I've used MoinMoin as a free wiki and been very happy with it. We always seem to upgrade to Confluence though. So rather than having to convert your content at some point I suggest going with Confluence from the start if it seems like a fit.

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+1 for considering Macs -- in my opinion, if you're small or just starting, you shouldn't be excluding any of your employees' preferred platforms. –  Zac Thompson Oct 9 '09 at 16:46

I don't work in a small business setting, but we use SIMPLite to encrypt our IM communication. That way we can utilize the IM infrastructure that is already highly available and out there for everyone to use for free while still keeping communication secure.

The one thing that has always fallen flat when looking at openfire is that one client doesn't seem to meet all of our requirements - easy to use, easy to deploy on a large scale, cross platform, cheap and stable.

We have also implemented IRC servers - but those are pretty much exclusively used by the tech people (who are on IRC most of the time anyway) and are not much of an option for non technical employees.

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I'm using openfire and pidgin. For email, I've outsourced to an Exchange provider, so that we can use all of the niceties of Outlook and have corporate blackberry and active sync.

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I use openfire and spark as windows jabber client, kopete or pidgin as linux jabber client. For mailing we use Mdaemon with it nice webmail features, but i think that i'll migrate to postfix very soon.

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Depending what you want to achieve and whether you want to support the solution you do have lots of choices here.

Open source solution like all the jabber based ones works well but in practise you might have to train up your user to use them (think the office lady who only knows MSN). If your users have a strong preference on a product, you should probably look into that first. The worse scenario is that you deploy a service that no one wants to use.

I work in a software shop and we use a combination of IRC, Skype, yammer.com, a internal blog and Asterisk for our communication needs. Again, I would start with defining your requirement and start ruling out options.

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We've been using OpenFire & Pidgin. Pidgin supports any IM protocol I've ever heard of, too, and of late supports voice & video (except on Windows, which is supposed to be coming). We've got OpenFire authenticating against LDAP, so our users don't have to remember an additional password. There's also a feature where a group can be configured to share all contacts within the group, eliminating the need for all "buddy request" nonsense.

We've been using this setup for several years. We've gone through several versions of both OpenFire and Pidgin, and have never had any problems.

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You really should consider Liminotes for colaborative work. Our company make heavy use of an internal IRC server which works well for us but is probably a little alien to most people. Some form of instant messaging such as Skype would be a good tool to allow.

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Yammer seems to be a good solution for business.

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