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What's the Real Story of SM vs. Exchange?

Discussion in 'SmarterMail' started by rebus, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. rebus

    rebus Member

    I've been using SmarterMail since version 3, but have never gone head-to-head with Exchange. Now I have the opportunity to bid on an account currently hosted on Exchange.

    A few years ago I looked at the synch options, and found most required a 3rd party add-in like Funambol. The SmarterMail version 9 info indicates (for example) that over-the-air synch with Blackberry devices STILL requires a 3rd party app like AstraSync and NotifySync.

    My question is-- in real world terms-- what are features Exchange Server has that SmarterMail version 9 DOES NOT? The account up for bid is using Exchange 2003 and Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES). They are looking for an alternative to Blackberry and will soon be field testing some Droid devices, so the BES may not be an issue in the near future.

    But before I get blind-sided with "Exchange can do this, can yours?" questions, what features do Exchange users consume that SmarterMail won't be able to provide?

    Please, no holy wars about MS being evil. Exchange is a killer app, and we know it. I just need to know how "close" SmarterMail is getting, and what is still missing, without the marketing spin.
  2. rebus

    rebus Member

    I should also mention, they use a LOT of shared calendars, shared address books, etc., and rely heavily on the company's global address book.

    I know SM has sharing, but last time a major client used shared resources, we discovered sync between users (and between Outlook and server) only happened when (a) Outlook was opened/closed, or (b) the user clicked the Sync buttom to perform a manual sync.

    We had lots of negative feedback on the clumsy sync options. Eventually we lost the client to an Exchange host and I know they were a lot happier for it.

    Has synching with Outlook been automated in SM yet, or does Exchange still have the advantage for people who open Outlook and leave it running all day?
  3. DXD

    DXD Product Expert

    One thing I know OWA (Outlook Web Application) does that SmarterMail doesn't is support the use of client certificates so that you can Sign and Encrypt emails.
  4. rebus

    rebus Member

    Nobody else? I throught with the diverse group in this forum, someone would have Exchange admin experience.
  5. jstraten

    jstraten Member


    It is quite hard to get some feedback here. I posted three messages and got 0 feedback. Anyhow, we are currently evaluating SmarterMail and I will gladly share some of our findings with you. I can almost guarantee you that some of our issues will come up with your customers if they are using (or comparing) SmarterMail with Exchange.

    1. Incomplete address book Implementation
    This will be a major impact if your customers are fully using address book functionality in Outlook. Basically, many fields are simply missing. You can get a complete list if you import an address book from Outlook into SmarterMail using the import function. Essentially, all fields that are mapped to "Additional information" are missing... For example, you can't have alternative emails or phone numbers.

    2. HTML Problems in the web client
    We converted a full mailbox (18k mails) to SmarterMail for testing. The conversion went smooth, but we quickly discovered that many legitimate emails can't be viewed in the web client. Oddly enough they still show up correctly if you connect Outlook to the same mailbox. But you tell me, how can you explain this to users who are used to things working at all times?

    3. One private calendar and one private address book
    We haven't been able to setup more than one private calendar or address book per person... Again, this would be a hard sell if people are already using multiple calendars and address books.

    4. New mail or reply to mail opens a new window that is not attached to the main window
    I think some folks might not notice it right away, but this is somewhat old fashioned and creates a lot of clutter on your desktop...

    5. No free technical support during evaluation
    You can only talk to the sales team during your evaluation who are nice people that tried very hard to help us out by the way. Now, I realize that MS is not providing any free technical support during evaluation either, but they have many forums that are moderated/monitored by industry experts that provide you expert answers.

    Many of these issues are puzzling to us. I mean Outlook is the most commonly used email client in business. So, it is an obvious choice to support it in SmarterMail. But how is it possible to miss so many fields?

    Anyhow, we certainly have no plans to go with Exchange, but these are valid points that might make it a difficult sale to convert existing Exchange customers.

    On the plus side, SmarterMail has some features out of the box that Exchange doesn't have. CalDAV and CardDAV come to mind if your users are using Apple hardware (iPhone/IPad). In addition, you get a lot of free Anti-Virus/Anti-Spam functionality where as MS is pretty much "paid add-ons only".

    In general, I would say that SmarterMail can compete if some of the issues listed above can be addressed and resolved.

    Our story:
    Currently, we are still on MDaemon which is excellent from a robustness point of view, but very poor when it comes to the web client and non-existing when it comes to CalDAV/CardDAV. The latter is what started us looking for a new solution. Our needs appear to be simple: IMAP and web client for email, CalDAV and CardDAV support for Apple and Android devices and full Outlook support (address book and calendars with free/busy functionality). It has been a long journey so far. We looked at the following products:

    1. MailEnable
    - Great product with all the features we need, unlimited user/domain model
    - Licensing is aimed at larger customers if you consider that only the Enterprise Premium edition includes full Outlook support, too expensive for smaller customers

    2. Zarafa
    - Nice new web client, good Outlook support
    - Installation and administration requires Linux knowledge that exceeds our knowledge

    3. AtMail
    - Nice web client, many nice features, well implemented, easy installation and administration
    - No Outlook 2010/2012 support

    4. Axigen
    - Excellent AJAX web client, fully compatible with Outlook, great support including technical support during evaluation
    - Weak SpamAssassin implementation, inability to filter on grey listing renders it a useless feature, no Bayesian spam feature) and, last, but not least

    5. SmarterMail
    - Good looking web client, great support for other devices, full CalDAV/CardDAV support, Outlook 2010/2012 support, great Anti-Virus/Anti-Spam support
    - Somewhat cluttered administration interface, somewhat limited web client functionality, incomplete Outlook calendar and address book support

    We don't have a clear winner yet, but we are down to making a decision between SmarterMail and Axigen.

    Hope this will help!


    Update on 4/18/13: Since this thread continues to attract many readers, I opted to update the formatting on my post to make it easier to read. In the end, we ended up going with SmarterMail and we have been quite happy so far.
    1 person likes this.
  6. csimo

    csimo Product Expert

    We've stayed away from Active Sync until one of our larger customers requested it. It's a NIGHTMARE and I have no idea how SmarterTools gets away with many of the claims they make.

    You can only use very basic Outlook contact info. SmarterMail does not support many of the fields used in Outlook. In other words you can't say it syncs with Outlook since it doesn't sync much of the data. Even the data it's supposed to sync doesn't seem to work unless you do a manual sync.

    The customer has many different calendars... SmarterMail doesn't support that.

    The list goes on and on... do yourself a favor and never claim SmarterMail can sync with anything.
  7. cabeal1

    cabeal1 New Member

  8. Wheemer

    Wheemer Senior Member

    Sounds like Enom does not have it's Smartermail setup properly.

    A lot of these complaints should be directed to Enom.

    It is neither Smartermails responsibility or concern if an Administrator fails to setup smartermail properly, unless the person contacts and asks smartermail for help. How do you supposed they would ensure it's always installed and configured properly otherwise??

    This is a user to user forum. If you want communication from smartertools then you should try using the proper channels. Open a support ticket or use the feedback form on the main site.
  9. dandickson

    dandickson Active Member

    It is an unfortunate truth but Smartermail is still a way behind Exchange server, especially when you have a heavy base of Outlook users. Microsoft pretty much wrote the book on groupware, I have seen many try to get close to the feature set but nothing comes close.

    OFC Smartermail wins hands down for cost effectiveness in both software and hardware and provides a pretty diverse feature set.
  10. cabeal1

    cabeal1 New Member

    I drew a blank at Enom - they're not responsive. I've already left emails at the smartertools forum. There is no support. The only support I've ever had from smartertools was yesterday, as a result of this posting, here. so looks like I came to the right place to get a reply anyway. However, when I tried to send the reply my smartertools account seized up (sometimes it just disappears for no reason, or pops into mobile mode or something) so I bagged it.

    If I were smartertools and 'smarter' i wouldn't force frustrated users into narrow channels - I'd be all over it,making sure all of my customers were happy, no matter where they are. I'm sure you're a product expert and know exactly how all the forums ought to be used. I'm not. I'm a business person tired of spending my valuable time making screen shots and giving free explanations about glitches to product companies who should know better. I'm not a large enterprise buyer though, so I don't matter. But I DO represent the sort of smart user that an enterprise buyer is trying to serve, and so I think my opinion might matter to someone, like them.

    For my money, SmarterTools isn't a good investment for any enterprise and if I were in charge of buying I wouldn't be sending my staff, sales people and programmers, down the road of its idiosyncracies, its touchy set-up, its glitchy upgrade releases and its lack of flexibility. But that's just me. After reviewing the sorts of errors that people are dealing with I don't think it will make a difference if I participate here or not - my experience will stay just as glitchy - so I'm over and out. Take care!!
  11. huppy

    huppy Member

  12. chicagonettech

    chicagonettech Product Expert

    Agree, some fields are missing, but Version 11.X is far ahead of version 10 and earlier versions, and I believe it is the intent of SmarterMail to improve upon this now that they have completely re-written the back end code and gotten rid of most of the CSS and java with the release of Version 11.X

    I recently converted a company with 4,200 employees to SmarterMail. Several of those had mailboxes which are more than 60 gig in size. One had an issue and it was resolved within minutes when we followed procedures for "non-displaying e-mail" which have been discussed in these forums many times.

    One of the great assets of both these forums and the SmarterTools knowledge base is that they are fully searchable: not only from within the tools themselves, but from with Google. Within hours of something being posted in here it usually appears via Google searches.

    Again, I agree that this is a limitation for those who are accustomed to having multiple calendars or address books.

    SmarterMail did, with the complete re-write of SmarterMail 11.X make public shared calendars and invitations work properly - even from within ActiveSync. They had been battling with this since late versions of 9.X and throughout Version 10.X, so, once again, I have to believe that the complete re-write of the backend code for SmarterMail 11.X, along with the removal of CSS and java, will lay the foundation for this being implemented in a future major release.

    Outlook also creates a new window when creating a new, or responding to a, message.

    I actually prefer this method as I sometimes have several documents working and the use of multiple windows is a very important tool for me.

    Microsoft doesn't event provide a way to speak to anyone unless you are willing to charge $200.00 to your credit card. If the issue it is found to be a bug, it is not refunded. The product experts on here, myself included, who are not paid employees, but volunteers who must also run our own businesses, do the best we can. SmarterMail's management and upper staff also jump into the forums periodically when there is enough data so they can render an opinion as to whether the issue warrants further investigation on their part or should be forwarded to the attention of the development team.

    Again, there are issues with Outlook and other clients. Several of those were closed with the release of SmarterMail 11.0. Additional issues were patched with the second patch for 11.0.

    I have addressed the CalDAV and CardDAV in my response to the post below so will not do so again here.

    With regard to the antispam, SmarterMail started making these features available with SmarterMail Version 6.0 BETA. I had just converted one of my smaller theatre companies to SmarterMail 5.X and was so satisfied with the SmarterMail product - even though it was a product with far fewer bells and whistles found in SmarterMail version 11.X, that I immediately purchased the product and switched everyone.

    When SmarterMail 6.0 BETA came out the new anti-spam features were introduced and I started tinkering with them. I soon realized I didn't have to spend 15 hours a week on banned words and address lists, but could virtually eliminate more than 95% of the undesirable spam using only SmarterMail's built in tools.

    Not an attack, just a comment: run-on sentence! This is not a text messaging editor and is not limited to 254 characters. Learn to make sentences and paragraphs.
    • -CalDAV / CardDAV is extremely important to our MAC/Apple clients as well and does function very well in SmarterMail.
    • I was running CalDAV / CardDAV under native Android on an HTC Evo 4G prior to upgrading my phone and found it mostly satisfactory. Most of the issues were with the speed of the Sprint network, which was in the process of having three tower systems merged into one at the same time in Chicago and that made life hell with cellular communications because the bandwidth sucked.
    • With regard to Outlook - and this is not an attack, but a statement of fact, Microsoft partially changed the way Outlook interfaced with all MX servers with 2010. They then changed the way Outlook works again with Office 2013 by first guaranteeing full backward compatibility and then removing POP features from the initial release and making people jump through hoops to display all of the folders in IMAP or ActiveSync installs.

      I have stated this before: I think Microsoft's business plan is to dump boxed product altogether and move all Office products to the cloud so they can charge monthly fees to everyone.
    • Pros and Cons listed are personal to everyone but I can comment that SmarterMail has done an excellent job of better grouping controls. I have see far worse when it comes to interfaces. I can cite many control panels, including most of the domain registrars, which make absolutely no sense.

      Additionally, SmarterMail provides page appropriate, context sensitive help by clicking on the HELP button in the upper right-hand corner of whatever page you are currently working in. The HELP file is a PDF which can also be downloaded and searched in a local client or desktop, but I find the online version works much better than trying to download and search a file which is now being updated pretty regularly. Versions prior to SmarterMail 11.X were somewhat lacking in the help file, but, with Version 11.X, it is getting much better.

      Anything not in the online version of the help file can be found by searching the SmarterTools Knowledge base at http://portal.smartertools.com
  13. jstraten

    jstraten Member

    I completely agree with Bruce. My email is quite old and he summarized all our findings since using SmarterMail 10.x/11.x.

    Sorry about the last paragraph. I could have done a better job there... Can't remember why it came out that way, but I am guessing that I was in a hurry.


    Update on 4/18/13: Since this thread keeps people interested, I finally updated the cluttered last paragraph today. :)
  14. ramiss

    ramiss Senior Member

    For me the only negative with SmarterMail is that ActiveSync and Outlook integration has, and continues to be a rocky road. With Exchange it just works.

    However, I would take SmarterMail's intuitive interface and price over Exchange every time.
  15. bilal

    bilal Member

    when i had to make a business decision to provide collaboratio server to my clients, i just could NOT think of any reason to stick with microsoft exchange and pay enormouse amount of cash..
    my biggest issue with exchange was its version changes and yo are stuck with lync etc for instant messaging.. im not in the business to appease microsoft, i need to provide a robust service to my clients that simply works. A year ago, i made the move and will never go back to exchange again.
    oh and these forums on smartertools are just plain awesome..
    i started with smarter mail 10 and now a proud owner of 11.1 enterprise.
    i remember i was in hurry setting up my server and literally i set it up in about 35 minutes. Can you say that about your exchange impementation??
    chicagonettech likes this.
  16. pjbeee

    pjbeee Member

    >> Bruce Barnes said: The product experts on here, myself included, who are not paid employees, but volunteers who must also run our own businesses, do the best we can. SmarterMail's management and upper staff also jump into the forums periodically when there is enough data so they can render an opinion as to whether the issue warrants further investigation on their part or should be forwarded to the attention of the development team. <<

    Thanks, Bruce (sincerely!) Your words pretty much speak for themselves. But I will expand upon this anyway. ha. ST needs to have more paid people involved in the day-to-day upkeep and support of their product, and that includes monitoring and responding to issues in this Forum. Too many issues (granted, not all of them) are answered with excuses or poor explanations of why those things are the way they are. And BTW, after a couple of bad experiences with Outlook integration, I'm just scared of it. I understand that Micro$oft doesn't make it easy, but some of us ARE paying ST for actual MS ActiveSync licenses. This should work better.

    To be sure, SM is a pretty robust, stable and even impressive product. But one gets the feeling, once too often, that ST doesn't go that "extra mile" from time to time; and there's a bit of an "us against them" attitude that shows up on occasion.

    Regarding paid support: I have many un-used premium support incidents (this is perhaps a plus!), many of which expire before they can be used. Waiting over a day for a response, sometimes when I DO activate one of these incidents should NEVER happen. The longest response time should be 2 hours, at the outside.

    And, I have activated a couple of these "phone/email" incidents (these cost more!), say "call me", and ST insists on responding via email. I have requested, and paid for, a phone incident, and expect to receive a phone incident. It should not be ST's choice.

    ST, please don't force your loyal consultants' clients to the CLOUD for their email. For one, you will lose that SM license. There are many good reasons to keep email out of the cloud, just don't give folks more ammunition to want to go there!!!!
  17. scrupul0us

    scrupul0us Active Member

    The biggest things my users want:

    -Overlaid/merged calendars
    -Ability to use digital certs to sign their email
    -Revamp of the conference room system to auto-gen a calendar that shows EVERYONES bookings so it's easier to find "open" slots.
    -"Public Drive"
  18. DXD

    DXD Product Expert

    The ability to use digital certs to sign/encrypt is a big one for me as well. I've been asking for this for a few years now.

    I don't know how possible it is because even with OWA it would only work in IE (unless that has changed) because it required a plugin be installed.
  19. scrupul0us

    scrupul0us Active Member

    You should be able to import your cert into the web interface unless I have a gross misunderstanding of how personal certs work to sign email?
  20. DXD

    DXD Product Expert

    That is now how OWA did it. The certificate remained in your certificate store on your local machine and the ActiveX plugin in IE would access it to sign/encrypt the email. The big draw back here was that you still had to use your computer with your certificate even with OWA you couldn't use OWA on another computer and still sign/encrypt email.

    My guess is that uploading your certificate would be a security issue because you have to upload both parts the public and private key to the server.