Kerio's messaging and collaboration server gets a lot more than a new name in this release, with a raft of new features designed to extend its appeal beyond the small business market it has traditionally served. Mobile synchronisation is extended to other platforms, and there are numerous other enhancements to help the product compete against main rival Exchange. Despite which, Kerio Connect is as easy to deploy as before, with a comprehensive web-based management console another key feature of the new product. The only concern is the increasing popularity of hosted cloud solutions, which address the same market as Kerio’s in-house product.
Distributed domains; single web-based management console; CardDAV support; enhanced over-the-air synchronisation to mobile devices; multi-platform support.
Annoying US flag displayed when English language selected; hosted products do a similar job
£ 283+VAT for server + five users, additional users £18.20 (sold in blocks of 5)
Server requires 1GHz processor plus 512MB RAM, running Windows 2000 or later, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4/5, CentOS 5.2. SUSE/openSUSE 10/11, Debian 5.0, Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Support for Mac OSX 10.4 or above on PowerPC or Intel based apple Mac platforms. VMware virtual appliance also available, running CentOS. Client support for Outlook 2000 or above, Windows Mail/Calendar (Vista), Entourage 2004/8, Apple Mail/iCal/Address Book. Web client compatible with most browsers.
The latest version of the Kerio Mail Server comes with new features and a new name - Kerio Connect - to better reflect how the product has evolved in the past few years. It's no longer 'just' a mail server but, like market leader Exchange, a fully fledged messaging and collaboration solution, connecting users whether in the office, on the road or at home, as the Kerio marketing slogan puts it.
New name aside, Kerio Connect is effectively the same solid SMTP messaging and collaboration/groupware product it always was. It matches Exchange in most areas of functionality, but is a lot easier to manage and can be hosted on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. There's also a VMware virtual appliance implementation, which we downloaded and used for our tests.
The virtual appliance is a fantastic idea, making for a very quick and painless install on our VMware server. Just a few minutes, in fact. Installing on other platforms is pretty easy too, with very little intervention required apart from telling the installer what domain name to use and the password for the administrator. Of course, as with any messaging server, DNS and firewall changes may also be required to direct mail to the target system, but that's not difficult and, in most cases, you can be up and running in under half an hour.
Simple management has long been a key feature of the Kerio product and remains so in the new Connect version. One very obvious and immediate difference, however, is the use of a web-based interface, rather than the native Windows and Linux consoles previously employed. The older consoles are still there, which is fine, but it's hard to understand why as they don't provide support for any of the new features implemented in this release and won't be developed any further.
We used the web interface exclusively as it can now be used to manage everything, requires no extra setup and proved very easy to navigate. We were also impressed by its responsiveness, as some web interfaces can be very sluggish. In fact, our only complaint was the US flag shown in the top corner to indicate English language settings. A UK flag or no flag at all would be preferable over here, something we're told the developers are looking into.
From the web console we found it easy to set up our users, opting to map to existing accounts in Active Directory then tweaking the Connect settings. There's support for Apple's OpenDirectory service, while user data can be stored in a built-in database for small deployments. That said, Kerio is quite openly looking to broaden the appeal of its product beyond its usual SMB marketplace, hence another new feature, the distributed domain.
A distributed domain does away with the need for mail servers deployed in remote offices to each host their own separate messaging domain. Instead, a common domain can be spread across multiple servers regardless of location, simplifying management and making it easier for users to collaborate and share information. As a result there's just one global address book, plus it's easier for users to share information and schedule meetings and other events just as if connected to the same server.