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Responses: GroupWise vs. Outlook/Exchange

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May 1, 2007 11:48 am

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David Dabinett

My views on the topic of Outlook vs. Exchange are as follows:

1. GroupWise is a very discrete upgrade between backend (server agent) versions, without huge efforts involved. Exchange does not upgrade as we are used to in the GroupWise world, but instead you migrate to the new version. This usually involves purchasing new hardware as well as the requirement to migrate the mailboxes to the new hardware and version of Exchange. To me, this sounds like a huge outage (rather 10-15 minutes) and a large ongoing expense.

2. AD is tied directly into Exchange – which means two things. First, the new versions of Exchange are required to run on the latest version of AD, which also usually means running on the latest version of Windows platform (I think you get the picture from here). Second, any issues with your AD environment will usually have an impact on Exchange – so not only can’t you access the Windows servers, but you can’t get into email.

3. Performing maintenance on Exchange is an issue. For example, database corruption usually means having to perform a restore of the database and replay the transaction logs, which will still lead to data loss. Or, you can take the Exchange database offline to perform a repair, but this means that the database volume needs as much available free space as size of the database itself. See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa996436.aspx – to me, this sounds like more downtime than what it is worth.

4. If you have remote sites running one NetWare server that provides file/print/GroupWise and possibly ZEN, then you will need to (depending upon the number of users) to run multiple servers on these sites.

5. Based upon the number of users you have, Exchange can require greater number of administrators. On GroupWise, I have several sites that have one administrator for over 5,000 users, and GroupWise remains stable.

So, if your organization wants to save shareholders/taxpayers money by focusing on doing what the business does best (which is what most organizations want to do), then there is no clear incentive to move to Exchange.

But if your CIO is making these choices because that’s what everybody else has, or that’s what MS is telling them, then they better look more closely at what your business sees as important and make a decision from there.

Interestingly enough, I have a few organizations who are currently looking at the huge bill that they get from MS each year. When the hard questions are asked about what they are getting for their money, they really cannot come up with the answers.

Patricia Potts

As an experienced frontend user of both systems, I strongly prefer the functionality offered by Outlook, period. I realize the back-end piece of Groupwise could be better than Exchange, but that’s not why IT individuals are hearing that people want Outlook.

Outlook itself, even without Exchange, provides so many more valuable tools than offered by the frontend of Groupwise. Things like managing tasks, creating rules and alerts, notes, organizing, viewing, creating forms – and then linking all items to your contacts – are so much more flexible and effective at allowing me to do and manage my day-to-day work. And that doesn’t even include the collaboration and sharing differences.

Currently, using Groupwise 6.5 at my current workplace means I only have the basics of what I know Outlook offers.

Your concern needs to be more with Outlook itself. However, with what I said above, you are moving toward the right direction if you don’t want to improve the fontend of Groupwise. As more frontend users find out that the Groupwise 7 – Outlook connector will allow using Outlook, you will most likely hear less. However, after reviewing the comparison features on your site, you still may have some more work to satisfy the longtime Outlook user.

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1 Comment

  1. By:kjhurni

    It’s a mixed bag, IMO.

    I think GroupWise is extremely easy to install, upgrade, and deploy. (but then again I’ve been doing that for 10+ years). Exchange 2007, based upon MS own documentation seems to be very unfriendly for upgrading (I believe their own docs state that you “transition” to a new version). This requires extra hardware because you have to install a NEW copy of the OS, and then a new copy of Exchange on that new machine and move the mailboxes over in order to upgrade. Same thing if you want/need to upgrade the OS (Windows). You have to setup a new server, new OS, reinstall Exchange, move mailboxes.

    From a database stability, to be honest, I’ve had FAR more problems with groupwise databases than with MS Exchange databases. Most places that i know that use Exchange rarely, if ever, have to run database checks. It seems extremely commonplace in GroupWise to have to constantly run gwchecks (oh, your calendar crashes when you click on it, run gwcheck. Oh, groupwise crashes when you do X, run a gwcheck, etc.)

    Cost-effectiveness is very mixed. It really depends on the organization, the size, and the features they want/need.

    Contrary to some, I believe there ARE legitimate reasons to migrate (although whether or not they’re cost-effective is a diff. story). For example, is it cheaper/better to try to hunt and find an Archiving and/or Document Management solution that works WELL with GroupWise, vs. going with industry leaders (Symantec, EMC, Filenet, Sharepoint, etc) and switching the email system?

    Also, depending on your environment licensing can also come into play. If you’re already in a mixed environment, odds are you ALREADY are paying for the AD licenses, so you’re looking a slightly more to buy Windows licenses (especially if you get government discounts). SLES is not free, if you have MLA you are REQUIRED to pay maintenance/year which, over a 5 year cost is about the same as using MS Windows with SA (over same time period)–assuming you have hardware already that can handle it. Also MS licenses Exchange clients via user, not mailbox, whereas Novell charges by mailbox, not user. (if it can send/receive email you MUST buy a license, unless it’s a resource, in which case you run into LDAP issues because are contained in groupwise and not in eDir/LDAP with all the attributes).

    Novell tends to respond faster, IMO, to market conditions (what, about 2 years or so for major updates?) vs. Microsoft.

    Then again, Novell’s track record for patches (7.x HP1, HP2, post HP2, etc.) vs. Microsoft aren’t all that great either, IMO. Can’t remember the last time MS issues a security update for Exchange that broke a bunch things, unlike GroupWise lately.

    Pros and Cons to each and both, and I say, evaluate what you need/want, how much does it cost and go from there. Sometimes you will need/have to pay more, unfortunately, but that’s how a lot of things work. Simply switching “just because” or “everyone uses it”, isn’t well thought out, IMO.

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