If you're looking to upgrade your messaging infrastructure, cost is certainly going to be a major factor these days—which could mean many more people looking for alternatives to Microsoft Exchange Server. When you look around, you'll see there's no shortage of alternative mail servers out there. You'll want to be sure, however, that the savings are worth moving to a less-well-known product.

I recently spoke with John Stanners, managing director of Gordano, makers of the Gordano Messaging Suite (GMS). Taking its name from the Gordano Valley in southwest England where it's based, the company released its first mail server back in 1995.

"Since our original product release, which was a basic mail server, we've continually enhanced and developed it over the years," Stanners said. "So we introduced a web mail interface, and antivirus and antispam into the mix, and more recently what we call a collaboration server that basically provides the equivalent services to Exchange. So you can use Outlook on the desktop against our server in the background in really an identical way to that which you would use Exchange."

Why Choose GMS?
GMS could be a very economical choice. Stanners said, "It's got very low management overhead. The administrative requirements are nothing like Exchange. We also run on much lower hardware specs." New 64-bit hardware to run Exchanger Server 2007 could in itself be a stopping point for many organizations, and savings in time and headaches to manage your messaging system are also certainly worth factoring into your budget.

GMS web mail is designed to look much like Outlook. I guess the theory here—as with many Exchange Server alternatives—is that end users will more readily adapt if they can still use their familiar Outlook client and a similar web-based interface. In other words, they don't have to adapt much at all; IT admins are the ones who deal with all the changes. You can see the GMS web mail interface in the screenshot below.

And here's a calendar page, once again looking quite similar to Outlook.

Gizmos Let You Customize Web Mail
One of the areas of greatest improvement with the latest version of GMS, released this week, is in its implementation of Gizmos. Based on the Greasemonkey approach that lets scripts modify web pages on the fly, Gizmos are a way to add functionality to GMS web mail—basically, customizing the interface through the use of these mashups.

To extend the ability of admins to create Gizmos, jQuery support has been added to JavaScript. As Stanners said, one goal of this open approach to these add-ons is to "get customers out there actually producing gizmos that are going to integrate into their other systems throughout the business. And we're seeing a bit of a take up from that, but we'd like to push it further."

The latest GMS release adds Gizmos for embedding RSS feeds into the web mail interface and for using the Twitter APIs. Gordano has also introduced Admin Gizmos that let administrators enhance or limit functionality for all users. You can also now embed Gizmos in windows.

The Gizmo that impressed me the most is one that pops up a short quiz when you hit Send on an email—blocking your outgoing message until you successfully answer the questions. This "alertness test" might be welcomed by anyone who has ever hit Send a little before they intended to. You can see an example of a quiz in the screenshot below.

GMS is available for Windows, Linux, AIX, and Solaris, with identical performance and management on any platform. This could certainly be a consideration for IT shops that must manage mixed environments. For additional information about GMS, check out Gordano's website.

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