Wednesday, 31 December 2014

First Mail of the New Year

Happy New Year.  Welcome to 2015

Ok, so now we have a hardened server in play, the next step is to find some collaboration-ware to put on it.  To my mind, there are several options, and there are also a couple of different purposes that I am trying to fulfill.

Private Cloud

For this purpose, my decision is already made.  I've been playing with ownCloud for some time, and I do like it.  It is simplistic.  Its uses extend beyond just a file share in a cloud.  There is options for tracking tasks and sharing other information.

Private Email Server

Email servers have been a challenge.  In this field I have found three options; Citadel, Xmail and Exim.

I have watched Citadel mature over the last while (even had it running on a box for a while), and it seems to be coming together quite nicely, and from what I can read in their online instructions, setting it up should be reasonably straight forward - it comes as one install package.  It has a nice clear UI, and it handles lots of different email/calendar tools.  It also integrates with other email servers.  Nice.

Xmail on the other hand, at first glance does not appear as such a good option.   It is down-loadable as source - that's not too much of an issue.  However, there are so many third party components, and the basic configuration information and details are so vast, from the short skim-read I've had, it feels like I'd need to a complete degree to wrap my head around it properly. Also, the most recent release of Xmail was 4 years ago.  In the longer run I think Xmail could be more powerful, but given that I want this collaborative functionality up and running soon, Xmail is not my first choice.  Citadel, I have installed and set up before, and I know it will be quicker.

Exim I have only just found.  At this stage I do not know enough about it, and their web pages seem to have too little information up front, and possibly too many links to buy the book about Exim.  Although it does seem to be a single install package like Citadel, which is good, it is something that I'd like more information to be readily available before I commit to it.

When Too Many Tools Do the Same Job - A First World Problem

In looking at ownCloud alongside Citadel, there are a lot of features in both product sets.  A lot of these features are common to both products.  To set up collaboration-ware for any size group, even a family, there is a requirement to keep the options simple and straight forward.  If you give people two different task lists - which one should they obey.  How do they manage two different lists easily.  File repositories - if you have too many, there is always the question of 'Where did I put that file?'. Appointments that appear on one calendar - can they be synced to the other.  If not, can we constrain the feature set of one or both products, so that the overlap offered is minimised? For my part, successful delivery of a service does not simply mean a successful install - it has to be usable and efficient for the end users as well.

Plan of Attack

So, my first plan for the new year is simple.  Get a mail server working.  This will allow individuals to get their own calendars, tasks, contacts and emails functional.  The quickest solution here is obviously Citadel.  Once it is up an d running, it will then be possible to see how much the latest version of Citadel supports our required collaboration, find what gaps need to be filled, and see if ownCloud is actually needed.