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Stalker CommuniGate Pro

An alternative to Microsoft Exchange Server

CommuniGate Pro 4.1 (CGP) is a comprehensive e-mail platform that includes a variety of messaging services. First and foremost, CGP provides standards-based e-mail services, including SMTP, POP, and IMAP. E-mail can be accessed and sent via most any e-mail client or via a Web interface. In addition to e-mail, CGP provides an integrated LDAP directory and calendaring (via Outlook, Web, iCAL, or vCAl) and list server. That's not the end of Stalker Software's solution; on top of that they offer amenities like spam filtering and virus protection to keep users safe from malicious programs.

Not only does CGP meet a variety of messaging needs, it also runs on a variety of platforms, including Linux, Windows, Unix, Mac OS, and AS/400. Stalker's claim is that CGP runs on more than 30 OS/hardware combinations. This is possible because the software is compiled from a single code base on multiple platforms, offering options no matter what your server preference. That being said, Stalker does note that their SMB customers predominantly use Linux to host their e-mail solutions.

Many companies today deploy Microsoft server products so that their workers using Microsoft Outlook can collaborate. For these companies to embrace Linux they want alternatives to their existing products with like or better functionality. CGP hits the mark here as it offers end users the option to continue to use whichever e-mail client they like. This is a huge benefit for small and medium-size businesses that are disillusioned with their Windows servers and want to implement Linux in their data center or back office.

My policy is that unless I personally have been using a product I won't recommend it. As for CGP, I've been using it for more than four years to provide communication services for my company, NeTraverse (www.netraverse.com). I find it to be very useful for a number of reasons. Above all, I like the integration of messaging tools, including a collaborative scheduler, list server, and Web mail on top of a robust e-mail package. One feature that I find useful for my geographically diverse organization is the ability to send mail via secure SMTP. By tunneling the SMTP traffic and using client authentication I can offer an SMTP server that our staff can use from almost any Internet connection. I also find the ability for users to set their own forwarding, server-side mail filters, and vacation messages to be a boon to the end users as well as the administrative staff.

I like Stalker's try-before-you-buy option, a free demo that doesn't expire but does tag outgoing e-mail with a "demo" message. Since they offer installation support and make sure that the software is running before you purchase, there's a high success rate in new implementations. My experience with them was very good. I demo'd the product, and once it was installed the decision to purchase was an easy one to make. To unlock the demo I simply entered a key that allowed the server software to work for my e-mail domain. If you're looking for a quality, scalable e-mail solution that can be used on Linux (or a number of other platforms) then I suggest you check out Stalker's CommuniGate Pro.

Case Study: Digicon Communications Inc.

Digicon Communications Inc. (www.digiconcommunications.com/) is a full-service Internet Service Provider in New York State. Russell Hulsing, vice president of Digicon Communications, notes they have chosen Stalker's CGP for a number of reasons, but his overwhelming message is that it gives him enterprise-class performance at a very affordable price. Russell notes that for all his mission-critical applications he chooses Linux unless his customers request other platforms.

Two years ago Russell made the decision to use CGP based on the affordable price, scalability, and backing of Stalker Software for an enterprise-class mail solution. Previous to that Digicon used Sendmail with no real issues, but chose to implement this commercial solution due to ease of use for his administrative staff and, most important, his customers. Russell's customers constitute 300-400 businesses with many e-mail users each. He needed to provide a mission-critical solution that was convenient for them.

Russell notes that ease of use and performance are key factors in his satisfaction with this solution. He also holds the spam filtering plug-in (SpamCatcher from Mailshell - www.mailshell.com) in high esteem, with the caveat that for SpamCatcher to be totally effective he would need to spend considerable time "training" it to handle the latest tactics of bulk e-mailers.

In summary he says, "For a smaller ISP that wants to be able to offer higher-end mail services they [Stalker] have been a blessing. They offer a good value without requiring you to spend $100,000 on a mail server."

CommuniGate Pro

Stalker Software
www.stalker.com
Retail Price: Starts at $499 USD.
Groupware MAPI Connector client licenses are based on the number of concurrent users, while spam filtering and virus protection plug-ins are licensed based on number of messages. These licenses are on top of the base price.

More Stories By Mark R. Hinkle

Mark Hinkle is the Senior Director, Open Soure Solutions at Citrix. He also is along-time open source expert and advocate. He is a co-founder of both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium. He has served as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Hinkle is also the author of the book, "Windows to Linux Business Desktop Migration" (Thomson, 2006). His blog on open source, technology, and new media can be found at http://www.socializedsoftware.com.

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