I have to admit that, being an Exchange guy, I came into this review with a bit of a prejudice against any Exchange alternative. I’ve been asked to look at several during my career with the aim of saving money, and none of them passed my tests for functionality or usability. Kerio Connect 7 succeeded where competitors have failed. Aimed at small companies and offered at a very attractive price, Kerio Connect 7 delivers the functions that most small companies want—email, calendaring, and mobile access.

Installation is quick and easy, and the administration interface, shown below, is well laid out. When I set it up in my lab to do this evaluation, I found that the Linux install (Kerio runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS) wasn’t any more difficult than the Windows install, again putting it ahead of much of its competition. The wizard asks you most of what you need to get up and running, including DNS domain information, and enables all of the common client protocols for you.

Kerio Connect Interface

 

Integration with Active Directory (AD) is straightforward and requires little effort on the part of the administrator. The only negative here is that although it’s easy to import users from AD, there’s no ability to bring in groups to use as mailing lists. These must be managed separately within Kerio Connect.

All of the security features you’d expect in a mail server are present, including antivirus, spam, and attachment filtering. The attachment filtering is configured to block according to common best practices by default. Like everything else in the product, security is easy to configure. McAfee’s antivirus engine is included and activated by default, and there’s also an option to enable other engines. Backup capabilities are included as well, allowing for traditional backup scheduling, and again, the defaults are configured out of the box according to long standing best practices. Tape backup isn’t supported, but backup to a network location is available. Robust logging and a traffic-chart feature make troubleshooting and monitoring easy. The logs are well organized and verbose without confusing the reader.

Mobile devices are supported via ActiveSync functionality. To end users, this means that they won’t know the difference between an Exchange back-end and the Kerio Connect server. Also added to the new release is native support for Apple’s iPad device, giving Kerio the unique bragging rights to being the first to explicitly support the iPad.

Finally, included in the list of features is the must-have for any Exchange alternative—the Outlook plugin that gives your end-users the experience they know and are comfortable with by allowing Outlook to connect with Kerio Connect.

So, what does it all mean? Well, it means that if you have a small company, and no need for a highly-available (which usually means highly expensive) solution, Kerio will probably be a good fit for you. Most Exchange alternatives currently on the market have made big investments in adding features to their webmail in order to woo customers. Although this is attractive to those of us who go in for those things, our users typically want comfort more than anything, and that’s where Kerio Connect shines. It presents a familiar end-user experience regardless of the connection method.

Kerio really seems to know its target market, and the company is giving users exactly what they want—a simple solution that meets their needs without a steep learning curve. Not only that, but the company does it at an initial price of $540 for a server license, which includes five user licenses. (Additional user licenses are a reasonable $28.80 each.) These prices are for one-year licenses that include support, virus definition updates, and version updates. After your first year, server renewal is $162, and your additional users are $8.60 each. You can order without the antivirus licensing, but the pricing more than justifies going for the whole package.

I stated earlier that I had a prejudice against Exchange alternatives, but I have to say that if I had a small customer who was looking for an inhouse email solution that was affordable, I’d definitely ­recommend Kerio.

Kerio Connect 7

Pros: Inexpensive; easy to configure and maintain; low barrier to entry for small businesses

Cons: No high availability option; no native use of AD groups for mailing lists, so user and group administration has to happen in two places; not feasible for larger businesses because of these weaknesses

Rating: 4 out of 5

Price: First year: $540/server with five user licenses, $28.80/user (sold in packs of 5); renewals: $162/server and $8.60/user

Recommendation: Kerio Connect is affordable and easy to ­maintain for small companies. Kerio Connect might not be a good option for a small business with a large budget that wants advanced Exchange features such as high availability, Outlook Voice Access, and Unified Messaging.

CONTACT: Kerio · 888-775-3746 · www.kerio.com