SmarterMail and Microsoft Exchange An End User Comparison
Who Should Use This Document
This document provides a comparison of SmarterTools’ SmarterMail Enterprise
mail server software and Microsoft’s Exchange Enterprise mail server. The comparison
is from the end user’s point of view.
It is equally important to review the system and server administration experience
for both products as well. Therefore, please review the white paper
SmarterMail and Microsoft Exchange: An Administrative Comparison
for a more complete comparison of both products from the administrative point of
For the purpose of any comparisons in this document the following criteria were
- Based on a small to medium business (SMB) utilizing multiple domains, potentially
for multiple brands.
- Up to 250 mailboxes populating the mail server.
- Accommodations for organizations wanting both webmail access and standard desktop
- Mobility using multiple mobile devices (e.g., Apple iPads and iPhones, Android
tablets and phones).
- Complete synchronization across a variety of mobile and desktop environments.
Email is the cornerstone of modern communication. In fact, even after the growth in various forms of social media like Twitter and Facebook, email is still considered THE "Killer App." As such, it is of vital
importance that email communication is as secure, stable, powerful and versatile
as possible. With SmarterMail, you get tools to not only make your email experience
more enjoyable, but safer and more secure as well.
In addition to protecting users, SmarterMail offers a flexible and versatile set
of tools for users to access email. These tools include an advanced webmail interface
that can be used with most popular web browsers, synchronization protocols such
as CalDAV, CardDAV, and Microsoft EAS. Plus, SmarterMail is the only other email server, other than Exchange, to offer native integration with MAPI and EWS. All of this means users can sychronize any email client on their mobile devices, like the Samsung Galaxy line
and Apple’s iPhone and iPad, plus integrate their desktop clients such as Microsoft Outlook,
Microsoft Outlook for Mac, Apple Mail and eM Client.
Of course, there are other products that do the same; Microsoft’s Exchange is one
example. However, once you start comparing the two products it is evident that SmarterMail Enterprise far surpasses Exchange Server in many areas:
- Collaboration — This means the ability to share things like your daily
calendar, your contacts, and even your tasks. From a calendar standpoint, equally
important is the ability to set up meetings and check the availability of your friends
- SmarterMail contains virtually identical collaboration tools as Microsoft Exchange
and adds a few extra, such as file storage and file sharing.
- Security and Antivirus — Computer/infrastructure security from online
threats is a big concern, so this section discusses included options as well as
- SmarterMail offers powerful antivirus measures without the need to purchase third-party
add-ons (although you can, if desired).
- Antispam — According to Symantec’s MessageLabs, spam is responsible for
over 88% of all email. Options to combat these numbers, both included as well as
third-party integration, are discussed in this section.
- SmarterMail offers industry-standard antispam measures upon install without the
need to purchase third-party add-ons (although you can integrate third-party solutions,
if desired), with over 97% of spam blocked with a default installation.
- Synchronization and Mobility — According to a Pew Internet study1, 26%
of adults own an e-reader, whereas 31% own a tablet computer. In addition,
55% access the Internet on a mobile phone. With that kind of growth and reach into
everyday life, what are the options in Exchange and SmarterMail?
- SmarterMail offers a number of ways to sync with your mobile devices and actually
beats Exchange in some cases by supporting multiple synchronization options.
- Access to Information and Email Migration — Having access to information
is crucial in today’s fast-paced environment. You need to know what’s going on in
the world, you need to keep track of contacts and your interaction with them, and
you need to know your own status within your organization: your usage stats, your
available space, both for your email as well as for your files, and much more.
- SmarterMail offers a number of “push” type technologies that give you the ability
to subscribe and manage RSS feeds, reporting options of virtually all of your email
usage, detailed contact information, and a quick and easy way to migrate your files,
contacts, calendars and emails into SmarterMail—all within the robust webmail interface,
giving you access to this information anytime, anywhere.
Collaboration is simply the ability to share information with friends and co-workers,
from your calendar to your contacts. Additional features include the ability to schedule
appointments with people, check their free-busy availability, reserve conference rooms, modify shared tasks,
share contacts and “virtual cards” (vCards) and more.
Shared Calendars, Contacts, Tasks and Notes
- Exchange — One of the more notable and powerful features Microsoft
introduced with Exchange is the ability to share calendars, contacts, notes and
tasks with other people in an organization.
- SmarterMail — SmarterMail also offers sharing of calendars, contacts,
tasks and notes. However, SmarterMail offers a way to store documents and other
files and link to those in emails and tasks so others can access them as well. As
an aside, while you can share links to the files, you don’t have to, making SmarterMail’s
file storage feature even more versatile.
Security and Antivirus
Everyone wants their email to be secure—secure from virus infection, free
from phishing attempts, and free from malware and dangerous attachments. Additionally,
no one wants their mail servers used for spamming or for attacking others as that
can lead to untold hours of downtime once unwanted activity is detected and dealt
with—both internally and by those affected.
- Exchange — Does NOT contain any antivirus protection out of the
box. That means that it must be added after the fact and can end up costing more
money. At the very least, the Enterprise Client Access Licenses (CALs) are needed
in order to use Microsoft’s Forefront Security Suite.
- SmarterMail — Each installation of SmarterMail contains industry
standard antivirus protection through Clam AV. This is at NO EXTRA COST to users.
SmarterMail also offers the ability to add in a number of other antivirus applications
and services, including Cyren Zero-hour Antivirus.
Other Security Features
- Exchange — Exchange offers the ability to send/receive email using
Secure Socket Layers (SSL), offers Active Directory authentication (actually, Active
Directory is required for Exchange), and SMTP authentication by domain. This latter
option means that a user must provide an authenticated username and password in
order to send email from the server.
- SmarterMail — SmarterMail includes all of the features listed above,
but also takes things further by offering email administrators a large number of
whitelisting/blacklisting features, brute force detection, automatic denial of service
(DoS) prevention, automatic harvest attack prevention and more. This is an added
layer of security that protects users from unwanted events hampering communication.
Spam is, without a doubt, the scourge of the internet. In 2012, researchers at Microsoft and Google estimated that spam costs society up to $20 billion, a figure comparable to the GDP of Bolivia4.
Factor in the time and money spent by people during their off hours, and that number
can grow significantly.
- Exchange — Just as with antivirus, Exchange does
not offer any antispam protection out of the box for a user’s inbox. It requires
a third-party solution or Enterprise CAL. That’s not to say Exchange doesn’t offer
antispam measures for the server and for sending email (things like domain keys
and DKIM, trusted senders, SPF records, etc.).
- SmarterMail — Similar to its antivirus protection, SmarterMail offers
industry-standard spam measures on a variety of fronts. For example, SmarterMail
supports more than 24 separate industry black lists as well as SPF and DKIM. In addition, SmarterMail offers further protection through a proprietary
pattern matching engine built upon the SpamAssassin technology and support for remote
SpamAssassin servers at no additional cost to end users.
SmarterMail also supports Message Sniffer and Cyren Premium Antispam, which can be included for
a minimal yearly license fee.
Mobility and Synchronization
With more and more of today’s workforce occupying home offices or finding themselves
on the go, having an email system that can not only accommodate mobile devices—beyond
simply smartphones and including iPads and Android tablets—is essential. In
addition, people no longer just text or email each other, they share photos and
documents as well.
Mobility and Synchronization
- Exchange — Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) is a Microsoft technology that
is built into Exchange, giving users on the domain the ability to share contacts,
calendars, notes and tasks. In addition, Exchange email can be accessed from a variety
of email clients like Outlook, Outlook Express, Entourage and more.
- SmarterMail — SmarterMail also supports Exchange ActiveSync as
an optional add-on. However, SmarterMail also supports a variety of open source
synchronization technologies and specific contact and calendar protocols
like CardDAV and CalDAV (for most Apple products, as well as third-party support for Android). Therefore, while SmarterMail
supports EAS as a best-in-breed paid add-on, it may not be required in some situations.
SmarterMail also syncs with a variety of email clients such as Outlook, Entourage
and Thunderbird. In addition, SmarterMail’s webmail client is extremely robust and
offers a fully functional email interface for mobile and remote users that is accessible
from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Access to Information and Email Migration
In addition to email, users expect a single interface for a variety of other communications
mechanisms. In addition, transitioning from one mail system to another and the movement
of email and contacts can be difficult at best. Both the gathering of information—whether
in the form of news feeds or contact information—and the migration of your
email communication should be as seamless and pain-free as possible.
- Exchange — The use of Outlook with Exchange means you have a single
source for your RSS reader (for reading subscriptions to blogs and news outlets).
The feeds you subscribe to from within Outlook translate to your Web App access
as well. However, you can’t subscribe to RSS feeds from Outlook Web App—those
feeds can only be managed from with the Outlook client. In addition, using Outlook
gives you the ability to see a variety of information about your contacts. Again,
however, that information is only available from within the Outlook client. Also,
what if you wanted to know about your email usage patterns? What about the amount
of disk space you used compared to the amount you have available? These reports
are not available, either from Outlook Web or from the
Outlook client. And what if you wanted to be notified if a particular contact sent
you an email? What if you wanted to know when your mailbox reached a certain disk
limit? None of that information is available from Exchange. Yes, you can create
rules in Exchange and Outlook, but those are for email management,
not email notification. Finally, while Exchange itself offers the ability
to migrate email accounts from one system to another, this isn’t possible for end
users and must be accomplished by an administrator.
- SmarterMail — SmarterMail brings power to the webmail interface with
the ability to subscribe and manage your RSS feeds right from a browser window.
In addition, if you want to know your usage stats, that information is at your fingertips
plus information on your traffic stats, POP/IMAP usage, any errors you’ve received—all
of this across any date range that you can manage and set. As for contact info,
SmarterMail gives you access to a number of related items when you view your contacts:
recent emails plus the total number of emails you’ve received from that contact,
any appointments, and a list of all the attachments you received. As for events,
SmarterMail has them: you can set up events on collaboration features, email or
even your disk usage. Events let you know when something
occurs, so you have the information you want when you need it. Finally there are
the migration tools. Once your account is set up in SmarterMail,
you have the ability to manage the migration of email to that new account,
regardless of whether it is from Gmail, Hotmail or any other POP/IMAP account. The
tools are yours to use at your convenience. And don’t forget: all of this is available
from an access anywhere, at any time browser-based interface. You’re not restricted
to a single email client that resides on a computer you may, or may not, have access
When you look at all of the differences between Exchange and SmarterMail
a few things really stand out:
- The collaboration features match on practically a one-to-one basis. Therefore,
it amounts to the branding issue—just like people buy Nike shoes over Adidas. The
sneakers are practically identical, but people just recognize the Nike brand since
it’s associated with so many sports figures.
- SmarterMail offers antispam and antivirus at no additional cost upon installation.
While you can use add-on services and applications (like the wonderful products
from Message Sniffer and Cyren), there’s no need.
- Mobility and synchronization are the future, and SmarterMail is there.
- The information is right there, at your fingertips—from anywhere, at any
time. Whether it’s information on who has sent you what, or if you need to find
that spreadsheet that the CMO sent; whether you want to know when you reach 75%
of your disk space capacity or need access to your RSS feeds, SmarterMail offers
it all right from your Web browser.
Trust and Availability
There’s no doubt Microsoft has the name. They’ve been around a long time, and have
a long history of building quality software and being on the leading edge of technology,
especially when it comes to providing a robust and feature-rich email solution.
However, becoming one of the largest, if not the largest,
software and services company doesn’t come without some sacrifice. These sacrifices
tend towards giving users access to support and customer service -- at least affordable
access to these critical needs.
Over the last eight years, SmarterTools has grown to over 15 million users, but
still sees each user as important. They have grown through investment in products
and development versus in advertising and marketing, building SmarterMail into one
of the most popular and respected mail servers on the market. They realize how safe,
secure and reliable communication is vital to each and every user of their product.
That’s why SmarterTools offers services that cater directly to their customer base:
- Access to LIVE tech support, 24/7/365
- Upgrade and installation services
- A popular, free public community to interact with support and fellow users
- Responsiveness to customers that often leads to product enhancements
While it may be true SmarterTools doesn’t have the name recognition as Microsoft,
what is certainly not up for debate is SmarterTools’ commitment to their customers,
to their products, and to their desire to create the most reliable and secure mail
server solution on the market.
Taking all of this into consideration, it may not be a question of “why move to
SmarterMail from Exchange,” or “why choose SmarterMail over Exchange,” but more
a question of “why not?”
4The Economics of Spam, Justin M. Rao and David H. Reiley
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