Open Source Groupware – SOGo

Monday, 1. August 2011

Open Source Groupware – The Clear Leader is SOGo:

Some of the early groups of articles I penned on this blog, were comparisons of Open Source Groupware projects. At that time, the only one I could really recommend was eGroupware. Although I still believe eGroupware is a valid contender for your Groupware server, I have discovered a project, that in my opinion is leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. The project is called SOGo.

SOGo is not an entire email solution (which is good):

One of the things I like about SOGo is they don’t try to be a complete server solution. What do I mean by that? Well, I have managed may groupware platforms over the years, and almost every one of them requires you to hand off all of your communications software to their solution. Take MS Exchange for example. If you run Exchange, your entire email presence has to be controlled by Exchange. You are required to use Microsoft’s user management solution (Active Directory), and their web server (ISS). Basically, forcing you to license all sorts of additional products just to use their groupware solution. And let’s say you don’t want everyone to have access to the calendar features of Exchange, well, you will be paying the same price to license their account as the user account that has all the bells and whistles. So much for email drop boxes…

SOGo relies on your configuration to deliver groupware services. It uses your LDAP server to authenticate against, as well as your MySQL server to store it’s calendars and contacts in. Run any web server you choose. Plus, you can run any SMTP and IMAP server you want! That’s right, you don’t have to move to some obscure email storage format to provide enterprise class groupware to your users!

SOGo provides an awesome web based GUI to access Email, Calendar, and Contact information. It has the look and feel of Thunderbird, so most of your users will have a very short learning curve to pick up the interface.

Desktop Client Software:

Every time I start talking about groupware, eventually, someone in the back of the room brings up Outlook. If you don’t know my opinion of Outlook, then you might want to review some past articles on this blog, but to put it in a nutshell… I hate Outlook! That said, I guess most folks don’t, because the SOGo team is working day and night to get native Outlook support incorporated into the SOGo project. I commend them for their efforts, but fear their efforts well result in MS just changing their protocol slightly to break the compatibility. Even if they do succeed, they are still a ways away, so what can we use instead?

Currently, there exists three Thunderbird Extensions that allow you to use Thunderbird as a fat client for SOGo. That means you can edit your ACLs for calendar and address book sharing through the Thunderbird Address Book and Lightning interfaces. But wait, there’s more! SOGo fully supports the CalDAV and CardDAV interface. This opens up all sorts of desktop clients for Linux, and a few for windows as well.

I have personally verified the following client packages:

  • Thunderbird (3.1 with Inverse Plugins) (Linux Mac and Windows)
  • Evolution ( or newer) (Linux)
  • eM Client (Latest Version) (Windows) (Free for personal use)
  • Outlook (Tested against 2007 using WebCAL)

Actually, I have pretty much had success with any project of program that actually uses the CalDAV and CardDAV standard.

Clients for your Mobile Device:

One of the things that really attracted me to SOGo, is ironically one of the things that I have moved away from. I discovered that SOGo had a Funambol plugin to allow mobile sync. It allowed me to sync up my Droid, as well as my wife’s Blackberry. It worked reasonably well, except it seemed to be overly sensitive to empty lines in the Calendar records. After fighting with it for a few months, I decided to just scrap the whole Funambol setup and go with CalDAV and CardDAV exclusively… I managed to find a few different solutions for the Android, and settled on ‘AnDal’ for CalDAV and ‘CardDAV Sync’ for contacts. Oh and id I mention that it syncs up with my wife’s IPhone and IPad out of the box? No special apps needed. Just configure the default address book and calendar, and you’re set!

General Stability:

So far, stability of the system has been awesome. I’ve rolled SOGo out as a solution for all our users, and so far, so good!

— Stu



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