Open Source Email Server Application – Zimbra Collaboration Server (ZCS)

ZCS – Zimbra Collaboration Server is a popular free & open source based Email/ Collaboration server used by enterprise companies and even email hosting service providers. Zimbra also has an email server appliance & ZCS Network edition which support advanced features like mobile/ desktop auto-sync, direct company support etc but those are commercial utilities. We will have a look at ZCS Open Source edition, in this article.

ZCS Open Source email / collaboration server edition is an open source based software that needs to be downloaded to your company server and run from your data center. ZCS is similar to MS Exchange. ZCS supports Email, Address book, Calender, Tasks/ Events, Briefcase and tight integration between all these components.

ZCS Open source edition supports unlimited mail box users, and its capacity is limited only by the server hardware configuration. Since it is an open source product, only community based support is available. ZCS can integrate with corporate directories like Active Directory/ LDAP. Open source based anti-spam (spam assassin) and anti-virus (clam AV) components are integrated into it to provide gateway level security for incoming emails.

Zimbra Desktop client application is available and can be used by the users to receive their mails on their desktop. ZCS & Zimbra desktop are tightly integrated to support a lot of features. Users can also use other desktop email applications (like Thunderbird) along with ZCS/ receive mails from web-mail applications like Gmail/ Yahoo, etc.

ZCS provides AJAX based mobile web browser for accessing mails (POP/IMAP) in mobile phones. Or, you can configure the email application provided in the mobile phone for receiving mails from ZCS Server.

Multiple administrators can be assigned for the ZCS server, each with specific rights. The administrator can provision user mail storage quotas / policies for each user. ZCS can intimate the administrator if the disk is near to full capacity. Cross mail box searching (searching multiple user accounts at the same time) is available for administrators in ZCS.

ZCS supports a nice GUI (Graphical User Interface) for Zimbra Communications Server ( both open source, commercial editions), from where most of the features/ policies can be accessed and implemented by the administrators. In addition to the features supported by the Zimbra Desktop, Zimbra Collaboration Server supports the following features (Only some important features are highlighted here, as the feature list is very big) :

  • Email, Address book, Calender, Tasks/ Events, Briefcase
  • Conversation views/ grouping of messages in the same conversation (replies to mails)
  • Categorize emails to folders, drag and drop emails to folders
  • Search Inbox/ contacts/ documents separately or together
  • Calender integration with email / Shared free-busy times with colleagues
  • Briefcase for storing documents and sharing with other users (Other users can see or edit documents stored here)
  • Tasks & Appointments reminder
  • Tags – Categorize messages by attaching user defined names
  • User can select an address from his personal address book/ shared address books/ global address book
  • Save an email message to be automatically sent at a later date/ time
  • Custom email signatures/ Away messages
  • Shared mailbox folder – Other users can view messages in that folder
  • Request read receipt
  • Calender alerts – Pop up messages for upcoming appointments
  • All normal email operations like send, receive, CC, BCC, etc.

ZCS also supports some advanced features like SOAP?REST based API (Application Programing Interface) for integrating into other applications & migration of accounts/ mail/ calender/ contacts/ categories etc, from MS Exchange/ Outlook to ZCS Open Source Server.

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