TL; DR: Through Zimbra, Synacor provides hundreds of millions of users worldwide with an open-source alternative to proprietary collaborative software suites. The scalable email and collaboration platform is trusted by SMBs, service providers, universities, and government entities, among others, for its focus on security, scalability, and data sovereignty. With the release of Zimbra 9, Synacor is bringing users the dependable service they know and love plus a responsive new UI and a framework for out-of-the-box integrations.
To my husband, Apple devices are somewhat of forbidden fruit.
He recognizes the company’s mastery when it comes to user experience and continuous innovation. But he’s acutely aware of the fact that biting into the Apple ecosystem — ripe with harmonious products and services like the iPhone, iPad, HomePod, Apple Watch, and Apple Music — is a decision that’s hard to undo.
Collaborative software suites from the likes of Microsoft and Google are often the same way in terms of vendor lock-in. Zimbra, an open-source alternative to proprietary solutions, is looking to change that with its email and collaboration platform, designed to allow for easy integrations.
“Many closed software suites, to some extent, place the user in a walled garden,” said Andrew Shingler, Sr. Sales Engineer at Zimbra’s parent company, Synacor. “Zimbra is flexible and extensible, allowing users to integrate with the third-party collaboration tools of their choice.”
In addition to flexibility, Zimbra is widely known for its focus on security, scalability, and data sovereignty. The platform is available via an open-source edition and a paid network edition. Users can purchase Zimbra as a cloud email subscription from the company’s service provider partners. Or, they can contact one of the company’s resellers to integrate the platform into existing IT infrastructure.
Today, Zimbra is trusted by more than 200,000 businesses, 1,000 government and financial institutions, and 500 service providers in over 140 countries worldwide. With the recent release of Zimbra 9, Synacor is bringing users the dependable service they know and love plus a responsive UI and a refreshed framework for out-of-the-box integrations.
Available via Open-Source and Licensed Plans with Support
Zimbra, named after the Talking Heads song “I Zimbra,” was first released in 2005. The product was originally developed by LiquidSys and went through a series of acquisitions by Yahoo!, VMware, and Telligent System before being purchased by Synacor in August 2015.
In the 15 years since its initial release, the Zimbra team has navigated the company through its share of industry change. Lately, the focus has been on helping customers make the move from on-premises infrastructure into the cloud or a hybrid environment.
To that end, the company recently released Zimbra Cloud, a software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version of the email and collaboration technology that is highly extensible, fitting into nearly any collaboration app suite.
“Zimbra Cloud includes some under-the-hood changes in terms of architecture,” Andrew said. “It’s very much cloud-native, leveraging the goodness of things like Kubernetes, complete resilience and redundancy, and microservices. It’s been a great product for our resellers.”
The high-performance SaaS product, built to lower total cost of ownership (TCO), is cloud-agnostic, highly available, and scales anywhere from a few dozen to millions of users.
Of course, Zimbra remains flexible from a deployment point of view. “It can be on-premises, cloud-based, or even a hybrid of the two,” Andrew said. “Again, we’re giving users that flexibility in terms of how they want to consume the service.”
That includes choosing between two product Editions: Zimbra Open Source Edition and Zimbra Network Edition. Zimbra Network Edition, the paid version, can be run on-premises or in a public or private cloud. Zimbra Collaboration Open Source Edition is available at no charge for users to test, deploy, evaluate, and customize.
“We’ve always had an open-source component to our product,” Andrew said. “Communities download it from our website, they supply code enhancements back to us, and so on. It’s in our DNA.”
A Focus on Security, Data Sovereignty, and Affordability
In light of recent data privacy legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Zimbra users are increasingly concerned about data securing and sovereignty.
“We have a distributed architecture, and we get a lot of interest from users in places like the Middle East who are not keen on data going outside of geographic boundaries,” Andrew said. “They’re looking for alternatives such as ours where they can host and run services within the country to maintain that data sovereignty.”
Zimbra Cloud was also built with data sovereignty in mind.
“We’re rolling that out in such a way that we can make very distinct boundaries between where data exists, where it resides, and so on,” Andrew said. “And because we have that open-source background, we make the interfaces within Zimbra as open as possible so you can use whatever client type you’d like that might be out on the market.”
Zimbra also shines when it comes to its impact on the bottom line. Andrew said that the software is significantly more affordable than G Suite or Office 365.
“The cost of a subscription for one user per month doesn’t seem too bad, but once you start adding everything up, closed systems are quite expensive,” he said. “Our service providers often explain to clients that Zimbra is a capable platform that gives you all the sort of services that you would expect from these other suppliers, but at a much lower price point.”
Serving SMBs, Service Providers, Universities, Governments, & Beyond
Zimbra’s client base runs the gamut from small businesses to governmental entities. Many come to Zimbra seeking an alternative to proprietary providers.
“We have a lot of customers in France, for instance, including the local and central government,” Andrew said. “That comes from our open-source element. Many countries and organizations now see open-source technology as part of their ethos.”
Zimbra is also strong in the educational sector, with internet service providers (ISPs), cable providers, and SMBs.
“The company is quite global, and again, there’s a broad range in terms of who’s using Zimbra — banks, universities, and massive ISPs such as Telenet in Europe that serve around two million mailboxes,” Andrew said. “I suppose the one area where there is an opportunity for growth is the large-scale enterprise — that’s very much dominated by Microsoft Exchange on-premises.”
Onboarding new customers is typically a breeze because of Zimbra’s tight integrations with other SaaS services, including Slack, Google Drive, Zoom, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox, among others.
“We never want to make you change the way you work,” Andrew said. “You can come to us and still utilize those services that you’ve already signed up for. We also support all the usual open standards, POP3, IMAP, and synchronization of calendars and address books, desktop clients, and so on.”
The company even offers options for using Microsoft Exchange and Zimbra in parallel. This feature is usually used during migrations but some customers leverage the functionality permanently.
Introducing Zimbra 9: A New UI and Robust Features
Andrew told us he’s particularly excited about the release of Zimbra 9, available for existing customers via a simple upgrade. The technology is run on the same dependable server infrastructure as previous editions, providing security, privacy, and data sovereignty customers have come to expect from the company.
“With this release, we’ve actually brought out a responsive UI that will reformat itself depending on the device that you’re using,” he said.
The new edition also features a Zimlet framework that enables out-of-the-box integrations with Slack, Dropbox, and Zoom. Other integrations are underway.
“A lot of our road map is being planned around these integrations as we move forward, either integrations that we develop ourselves, from our service providers,” Andrew said. “Being able to kind of hook into different types of technologies makes for a much more attractive platform.”
To learn more about Zimbra, visit their website www.zimbra.com.