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Kool Tools: Kerio Mail Server

Volume Number: 24
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Kool Tools

Kool Tools: Kerio Mail Server

by Dennis Sellers

Kerio MailServer, an email groupware solution from Kerio Technologies, now natively supports iPhone functionality to accommodate the small to medium sized business market. Considering the hoopla surrounding - and the high sales of - the iPhone 3G, it's a timely update.

Kerio MailServer was first launched in 2002 on Windows and Linux, with the Mac version following the next year. Two years into the game, Kerio added new features and began work on Microsoft Outlook support. Today what you get with MailServer is a mail server with integrated spam features, dual antivirus controls, the ability to archive back-ups and a long list of supported clients and devices.

With the latest version, owners of the original iPhone and the 3G model can take advantage of the benefits of push email, push contacts and push calendar as well as remote wipe. Kerio MailServer lets you synchronize email, contacts and calendars with the iPhone natively over the air with the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol. Kerio's messaging server syncs data wirelessly with the iPhone 2.0 software update.

Kerio was able to take advantage of the existing Exchange package support and tweaked it to make ActiveSync work with the iPhone. Dusan Vitek of Kerio Technologies says you'd think this would be a standard protocol, but each developer has integrated it a bit differently. This means Kerio has to test each device independently to make sure MailServer works as seamlessly as the company wants it to.

"Microsoft hasn't made it easy," he adds. "In fact, there are two versions of ActiveSync, and both are called ActiveSync. There's one for desktop syncing and a wireless version. This was so confusing that Microsoft finally started calling the wireless version Exchange ActiveSync. There are different generations of the product, which jumped from version 2.5 to version 12 with the introduction of Exchange 2007."

Though the latest version of Kerio MailServer touts iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 support, the first generation iPhone will work with it as well - if you upgrade the firmware. Actually, Kerio has supported the iPhone for about a year, but had previously implemented a less graceful way of syncing data (though it was the only available way at the time). By the way, one of the benefits of ActiveSync is that if your device is lost or stolen, a remote command can be issued that essentially resets the device.

With Kerio MailServer, customers can choose any client, including iCal, Address Book or Microsoft Entourage on Mac OS X or Microsoft Outlook on Windows, to integrate email, calendars and contacts. The iPhone and other smartphones-including Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian, and Blackberrys-connect wirelessly to Kerio MailServer. Which means, of course, that you can keep everyone in sync (no pun intended) in your company.

Kerio's collaboration server delivers groupware with anti-virus and anti-spam protection, integrated automatic backup and archiving. MailServer is the only Exchange alternative to natively support Microsoft Entourage in Exchange mode. What's more, it offers a migration tool for those considering moving from Microsoft Exchange.

It's also easy to set up. There's a QuickStart wizard that helps you through the process. It asks for your administrative password, mail domain names, etc., then gets to work.

MailServer's Administration Console is a user friendly Mac OS X application. You can control all of MailServer's features through the console, which can be installed on a remote machine. This means that administrators don't have to be on-site to monitor the server and make any necessary changes.

MailServer consists of three main components, with the engine running as a background task, while a service monitor utility and administration console provide a status check and access for configuration. In addition to its own Web Mail client, Kerio supports Microsoft Outlook and Entourage (on Macs) for e-mail and groupware. For Outlook, it requires that the Kerio Outlook Connector be installed on each client. The Outlook support requires online connection to the Kerio server; otherwise another product, Kerio Synchronization plug-in, is necessary to provide local Outlook storage for offline operation.

If you compare MailServer to Microsoft Exchange, they're quite similar to a point-the biggest difference between the two is that MailServer is more flexible. For example, the Exchange server will only run on a Windows Server OS, which may not be your company's operating system of choice. Kerio MailServer will also run on Mac OS X or Linux. In addition to the server versions of these operating systems, it can also run on desktop versions. Kerio says you should use the version of an OS that you're most comfortable with, but the more users you're serving, the more robust server set-up you should implement.

Another differentiator between MailServer and its competitors is that Kerio provides an iCal server. Since Apple started pushing iCal as a protocol, Kerio wanted to "play nice" with the set-ups of those people who manage their calendars using iCal, says Vitek. MailServer does just that, even with those who using a PC with, say, Outlook. Of course, Mac OS X has no support for Outlook, so Kerio MailServer serves as a bridge between these worlds, translating different formats of calendar invitations and pushing them to individual mobile devices. MailServer also syncs, in Exchange mode, with Apple's Address Book.

"Smaller companies typically don't settle on a unified platform or client device," Vitek says. "On the other hand, large companies often enforce some type of policy. We know support for a variety of smart phones, different clients and different operating systems are important to our market and our customers."

MailServer is sold with a "perpetual license." Pricing - which starts at $499 - includes 12 months of tech support via email and phone and 12 months of software maintenance. Customers with active subscriptions can get the latest update for free. More info at:

Dennis Sellers is a long time journalist. He started in the newspaper business, but has been in the online journalism business for the past 15 years. He's the editor/publisher of Macsimum News (


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