Two and a half years ago I stood in a newly opened office hosting a get together of people in Scotland who used and sold Open Source products. We all had to introduce ourselves with a little bit of what we did. I introduced myself as somewhat of a newbie who would be in a position to decide whether I would use Open Source in my business or not.
I am there now.
As I have to support a small business that is growing but with fully half of its users mobile and most of its users requiring to be able to log in remotely. One of the perks of the job in this company is that you get to work from home 2 days of the week. This makes the Infrastructure Specification that I am building quite complicated. The sales staff also require access to salesforce.com as this is our CRM. They also use blackberries.
The company is looking to have a stable infrastructure with replication of file, email and print services. They require group calendaring, contacts etc with this all syncing between their machines and devices. Microsoft Windows licensing costs could be a bit prohibitive.
It would be a lot easier if there was an easy plug and play alternative that was Open Source. I'm not the only one pondering this. The Open Source Community are trying to give a choice to their users that isn't just Exchange (and Outlook) or a solution that has crippled functionality, or even all the functionality but it's given by disparate programs that it isn't easy to integrate.
So a messaging bash was planned that was invitation only in Edinburgh. The whole spectrum of the Community was represented from a Microsoft Gold Partner (a messaging man who is interested in open source) to an Open Source company that didn't like touching anything Microsoft with a barge-pole. In between those polar opposites, we had people who had clients who were using exchange along with Open Source products and myself (a potential client if they had the right solution for my problem).
This bash was to conduct interoperability and testing and discussions relating to messaging/calendaring/groupware:
What was planned as a strategy meeting with a little workshop turned into an interesting discussion on what was out there. We also asked what functionality was provided? There was also pizza.
A small business of 5-50 people require:
The Strategic View was to look at what could give us:
Integrations of these functions has to be considered but this is at the risk of lock-in especially if the solution is proprietary. This can restrict the customer in terms of being able to move their own data from one product to another. That even includes difficulties in syncing between smartphones.
The functionality that Business requires is "single sign-on" and the functions should be able to be accessed from the mail client regardless of what that client is on.
So what were the options to solving these requirements? What products could we reasonably offer?
So what are our options?
It's going to take another event I think.