November 14, 2002

MailStudio: Exchange-like features for Linux or Solaris servers

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -

MailStudio
offers a corporate email and collaboration environment that runs on Linux or Solaris servers -- and works with Microsoft's Outlook client and almost any common Web browser, so it is automatically compatible with any operating system that has a modern Web browser available for it.

The most striking feature of MailStudio is its attractive WebMail browser interface. (Better than me telling you about it: Test their online demo and see for yourself.)

Alex Lee, MailStudio's director of business development for the Americas and Europe, points out that besides the Web interface, you can also use POP3 and IMAP email clients. He also points to the product's calender features. He says, "Our calendar server supports iCal specs. On Outlook you need to change settings from MAPI to iCal spec. Then you can send and receive meeting notifications with Outlook."

(The iCal XML shared calendar specification is well on its way to becoming an industry standard; most groupware vendors and Open Source groupware developers are either using it already or plan to use it in the near future.)

Lee proudly boasts, "We have one of the best Web clients in the industry." It certainly looks nice, anyway. Lee says it supports a "lookup" feature similar to the one provided by Outlook and Exchange, and that the new version (due December 2002) will have user-controlled shared folder features so that, for example, a secretary can view his or her boss's calendar, and the boss has the option of allowing the secretary to change it or not. This same feature in the new version is also supposed to extend to other folders, including address books and, naturally, the calendar, with controls over who can view each file and who can edit it.

The new MailStudio version is also supposed to be able to synch MailServer's Web client with Outlook and other email clients for offline work, so a busy manager "on the road" can download a whole stack of email in a hotel room, then read and answer it all -- except spam; MailStudio has a spam filter option -- while flying, then upload all of his or her replies the next time Net access is available.

Right now, in November, 2002, Lee is giving a lot of "The next release will have..." answers. Obviously, we'll want to take another look at MailStudio after that new version is out.

Pricing and Purchasing

Lee says MailStudio prices start at $1000 for up to 50 users, which works out to $20 per user if you have 50 of them; that there is no server licensing cost; and that the more users you add over the 50 user minimum license, the lower the per-seat cost. This is just for the email server. The combination of calendar and email costs $1500 for 50 users, and the antivirus feature adds another $5 per user. This compares with $67 per user -- plus server licensing -- for Microsoft Exchange, not to mention the cost of Windows itself as an underlying operating system, which MailStudio requires neither on the server nor on the client end.

Compared to Exchange, Lee says, "We're about one fourth or one fifth of their total cost. Plus we sell a lot to ISPs and telcos, and they don't use Windows because it's not... [he pauses briefly]... the most scalable system in the world."

MailStudio's customer list includes a number of well-known corporate names. They currently claim to have over 1000 customers running a total of over 15 million mailboxes.

Prices are not visible on the company's Web site. You must contact either MailStudio or one of their resellers (and they are actively recruiting resellers) for a quote.

There is an "up to 5 users" demo version of MailStudio available for free download that Lee says will never expire; that you may use as long as you want for no charge, with no strings attached -- except that this is proprietary software, not Open Source, so you may not customize or redistribute the program without consent from MailStudio.

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