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Replacing Microsoft Exchange Server with an open source alternative

Zimbra is the first enterprise-grade open source alternative for Microsoft Exchange Server. Read on to find out how to set up your own open source collaboration and email server and finally wave goodbye to Microsoft Exchange...

This article originally appeared in Linux User & Developer magazine.

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Email and collaboration servers are vital to any organisation, whether small or medium in size. ‘Collaboration services’ is an umbrella term used to refer to services which help people inside an organisation to communication. These services include email, calendars, chat etc. Traditionally organisations used to pay hefty licence fees for Microsoft Exchange Server to enable these services – not to mention the vendor lock and the ecosystem lock that come as part of Exchange. Vendor lock means only Microsoft will be able to support Exchange and it decides when the licence support goes away. Ecosystem lock means it only runs on Windows servers and the client support is partial towards Microsoft-based clients only.

Meet Zimbra, an open source collaboration server which provides support for services like email, calendars, wiki, web, instant messaging etc. Zimbra Open Source Edition is completely free and can even be compiled on your own if you like. Like many other open source packages (such as Red Hat Linux), Zimbra also maintains commercial versions of its software with extra features such as Microsoft Outlook support, iPhone sync support, clustering and high-availability support, and technical support.  This tutorial covers Zimbra Open Source Edition.

Please Note
The following changes can alter your system behaviour. Therefore it is recommended that you use a test machine or better yet a virtual machine (using VMware workstation or VirtualBox) to test out these steps. Proceed with caution if you are using your main machine for this tutorial. If you are performing these steps on a virtual machine, make sure that you are using the ‘Bridged Networking’ mode. This will enable the virtual machine to participate directly on the network as if it were a physical machine.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS 64-bit (Server version is supported, desktop version will also work but not supported by Zimbra.) This tutorial uses Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Desktop System.

sysstat: this is a collection of tools for system monitoring:
[sourcecode language=”bash”]$ sudo apt-get install sysstat[/sourcecode]
BIND DNS server: BIND is a DNS server package. This is required to install a DNS server on our Ubuntu box:
[sourcecode language=”bash”]$ sudo apt-get install bind9[/sourcecode]
Network information: You should have the following information handy about your network. The following lists the required information and the assumed values for this tutorial…
[sourcecode language=”bash”]Local IP Address:
Netmask :
DNS Server (Private): (Same as the local IP address, as we will be installing a DNS server on the same machine)
Gateway: (Internet gateway, or the Router IP address)
DNS Server (Public): (Google Public DNS Server)
Hostname: ludzserver
Fully qualified hostname:
Domain name:[/sourcecode]
Zimbra Open Source Edition installer: Download the Zimbra Open Source Edition here. For this tutorial we are using file zcs-6.0.8_GA_2661.UBUNTU10_64.20100820044159.tgz which is meant for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

Preparing for Installation

Configuring the network settings
It is recommended that you use the static network setting for the server. Perform the following steps to set up the static network settings on your server…
1. Remove network-manager: network-manager is known to cause to problems in a server environment.
2. Edit the network interface file to look like following:
@config file: /etc/network/interfaces
[sourcecode language=”bash”]auto lo eth0
iface lo inet loopback
iface eth0 inet static

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