Plesk teams with Kolab for open source groupware

Plesk has selected Kolab Systems' groupware solution to offer enterprise groupware solution to its customers.

Plesk, one of the major providers of website management solutions, has chosen Kolab Systems’ groupware solution for its millions of users.

"You can now deploy Kolab in your Plesk installation with the Premium Email powered by Kolab extension. this extension is a step forward in the field of turn key groupware and online collaboration software. This package is easy and convenient to deploy — it can literally be installed in a few clicks, and it provides full Kolab functionality without the inconveniences and potential pitfalls of having to install Kolab from the ground up," said Kolab Systems in a press release.

This deal shows us why smart companies put their eggs in the open source basket instead of relying on proprietary solutions.

Kolab makes everyone’s life easy

Those people who have ran and managed mail servers are quite aware of the challenges that it poses, given the criticality of email. One wrong configuration and all potential and existing customers will get bounced emails. You will lose business and customers. Running your email server can be so challenging that even companies like Linode ask you to think twice and instead use third party email services like Google apps.

Kolab changes that equation. This fully open source groupware solution from Switzerland has made it easy to run your own email server. In fact being a groupware solution, you get a Google App-like infrastructure. You get an email server, calendar, contact, collaborative edition, storage...and much more.

"Kolab provides stable and secure IMAP, POP and SMTP servers, calendars, contacts, tasks, notes and online file storage. Sysadmins can have it up and running in minutes, and users can share and collaboratively work on any and all of these assets sharing with individual colleagues, or whole teams straight away," said the Kolab press release. I don't have to trust their words as I run Kolab on my own server and I can say, as a user, that Kolab makes all of this as easy to use as it is to set-up a WordPress site.

"Our mission is to provide full email and collaboration features, with confidence, for everyone. In collaboration with Plesk 19 million users now have Kolab available at the click of a single button, which is something we are all very excited about,” said Georg Greve, CEO at Kolab Systems.

What does this mean for Plesk customers?

Many Plesk-like companies offer groupware solutions that are based on open source solutions like Roundcube, but once again the user experience is not on par with what you would expect from Google Apps or Microsoft Outlook.

In addition, those solutions don’t offer seamless integration among components like email, cloud storage, calendar, contact and there is absolutely no online document editing. Kolab solves that problem as it sits on top of Plesk’s existing solutions and adds Google Apps like goodies without adding any complexity.

It means Plesk customers get a modern experience without having to invest any time or resources in learning or unlearning. It’s quite significant for small and medium business who don’t have a dedicated IT department to handle complex solutions like groupware.

What does this mean for Plesk

“Plesk now has over 19M mailboxes hosted on its over 3,77,000 servers" said Nils Hueneke, CEO of Plesk. "Most of these mailboxes only provide basic email, what is a tremendous opportunity to provide much more value for our customer base. The strategic partnership with Kolab provides a very innovative and rock solid solution to serve not only web professionals but also small and medium sized businesses. Especially those that pay special attention to privacy and security, as Kolab is hosted within the same secure server environment as Plesk itself."

There you have it, Kolab offers great value to Plesk. But I am more interested in the open source angle of the story. My first question to Seigo was why did Plesk chose Kolab’s solutions. Seigo told me that Plesk was looking for a fully open source solution and Kolab met all of their needs.

While Plesk itself is not open source, it does offer open source because they do know the value of open source. I guess Plesk knows very well that if they need to build a business around a technology that they don’t own, it better be fully open source. Here is why I think Plesk made the right decision by selecting Kolab:

No vendor lock-in: Even if Kolab Groupware is being developed by Kolab Systems, it’s a fully open source software under a great free software licence so there is no vendor lock-in. If things don’t work out, Plesk can continue to use Kolab by managing it themselves.

Be the change you want to see in your product: Plesk won’t have to wait for Kolab to implement features that they need, something that Plesk can’t even expect from solutions like Microsoft Outlook or Google Gmail. In this case, if they need a feature, they can simply submit a patch or contribute the code. If the rest of the Kolab community sees value in it, the changes will be accepted.

Staying safe: You must have heard how Microsoft delays critical patches, leaving its users vulnerable to be hacked by government agencies and criminals. There is nothing Plesk can do even if they are aware of the security hole in a proprietary solution. With Kolab, they can patch it themselves and then release the patch to the Kolab community so everyone can benefit from it.

Add-on features: Kolab is a module system so customers can add more functionality through add-ons, which allows Plesk to offer services and features that create another stream of revenue.

Flexibility: Kolab sits on top of a Plesk solution so, if things don’t work out, Plesk can remove Kolab solutions and use something else.

What is there for Kolab?

Plesk is branding its solution as Plesk Business email, powered by Kolab. So even if it’s not pure ‘Kolab’ branding, it does have marketing value.

It’s mindshare.

With Plesk choosing Kolab to power it’s groupware solution, Kolab will gain mindshare with over 19 million new users in the enterprise, SME and SOHO space.

Every Plesk user who would be running the new, Kolab powered solution will be exposed to the features and functionality of Kolab and when this user, sysadmin or soon to be CIO moves up in the ladder, they will be looking at deploying a Kolab based solution as they have seen how well it works.

In addition to that, it might also help grow the Kolab developer community as the end users themselves may want to get involved with the project. That’s what happened with the growth of Ubuntu. Every admin who uses Ubuntu on their web servers wants to learn more about it and then one day is capable of contributing.

In a nutshell, it’s a win-win situation. That’s one of the reasons Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation, calls open source a positive sum game. In the world of open source, everyone is a winner.

Except for the proprietary companies.

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