In the comments on my redundant e-mail service post, Avi Flax brought up Zimbra as a potential alternative to a hosted Exchange account (for e-mail, calendaring, etc.). Kevin Henrikson was kind enough to stop by and clarify a few things for us:
Zimbra has support for Blackberry over-the-air sync as an add-on in our most recent release. I’m not sure if any of our hosting partners have upgraded yet, but no doubt many will be including this soon. You can see this list for a partial list of our hosting providers… (read the full comment)
First off, many thanks to Kevin for stopping by and chiming in. Engaging in the conversation is the sign of a smart company IMO.
I looked at the Zimbra hosting partner list yesterday but found it rather difficult as a customer to figure out who offered what.
I think Zimbra would be doing their potential customers a real service by having a database of what each partner offered and allowing folks to search through that. Also, I would recommend allowing customer comments/ratings on each.
Since this doesn’t seem to exist, I did the legwork. The following is a list of all of the US Zimbra hosting partners listed on the Zimbra site, along with what I found at their sites:
- amicus – wow, this web site has less than zero useful information. I couldn’t find product details or pricing. There is a number at the top of the page to call “for price quotes and further information.” – I’m guessing they don’t want individual consumer business. Verdict: Moving on.
- Contegix – an “example package” is listed at a base price of $350/month. There doesn’t seem to be a way to sign up – just a sales phone number. I don’t think they want individual consumer business either. Verdict: Moving on.
- Maccius – much better web presence. There is at least a list of features offered along with the service and it includes BlackBerry support. The problem, again, is the price: $35/month for 5 users. Verdict: I may come back to this at some point.
- Milwaukee Microbusiness, LLC – Yay! Actual “per-user” pricing ($7.75/month for 1 user) and features right there on the web site! Unfortunately this page seems a bit outdated as the mobile support has an asterisk with “(*) mobile service in beta, available at an additional cost per user Summer 06”. Verdict: Definite possibility.
- mindcentric – Yay! Another great web page that gives me pricing and features. Unfortunately, this one seems to start at 5 users, and I am only 1 user. Verdict: Moving on, but might call if nothing else looks good.
- OnDeckTech – Nice that they offer Mac help as well. The pricing matrix is great, but the price is not: $22.95/month with “* Additional fees apply, please contact us for more info on additional fees” for BlackBerry support. Verdict: Moving on.
- san mateo regional network – I don’t think I can even sign up here… no pricing, nothing. Verdict: Moving on.
- Singlefin – “Corporate trial”, no pricing or feature information. Oops, there is a $9.95/user/month price on the free trial sign-up – but not enough information to make a decision on. Verdict: Moving on.
- Smedia – Nice pricing/feature matrix. Unfortunately the pricing is from 3 users and up with a $99 set-up fee. Ouch! Also, the same “mobile coming in summer ’06” that Milwaukee Microbusiess had. Verdict: Moving on.
- Sonoma Creative – Nice looking web site. The pricing is good as well – they even show the price with ($8.95/month) and without ($6.95/month) the mobile features. They offer one month free. Verdict: Best looking option to date.
- Voxel dot net – They say they do Zimbra hosting – and that’s about all they say. Verdict: Moving on.
So it appears to me that the individually hosted Zimbra accounts are a lot harder to come by than hosted Exchange accounts. Only two providers offer single user accounts, and the pricing seems to be in the $10/month range (with mobile). This is about half the price of a hosted Exchange account with BlackBerry access, and I’m tempted to give it a go.
One thing that is making me hesitate is the provisioning issues with my BlackBerry carrier, T-Mobile. I can’t imagine that moving from the “internet” account to the “business” account (and potentially back again) is a smooth process. Also, the first sync of data synchronization is always a little scary (backups or no backups).
This is definitely something to think about – I may give Sonoma Creative a call.