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Albert D. Kallal
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There's a metric ton of options available in this space, so I'm hoping to only look at the cream. Something with good baseline shared email support, good APIs for extensions and ability to integrate with other systems, etc. Nothing fancy is particularly required, although our two hard requirements (or, the two I can think of right now) is that it (a) must be deployable in-house (no hosted-cloud-SaaS-PaaS stuff) and (b) must be deployable in a linux environment.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
What's the focus of your requirements? Are you looking for a helpdesk application that works with your email clients? Are you looking for a CRM application that communicates with your bug-tracking system? Are you looking for a knowledge base application that works with everything else? When you say "must be deployable in a linux environment," do you mean the server(s) or the desktops or both?
If your answer is all of the above, you need to re-examine and better define your workflow or business systems. Fogbugz is pretty capable at the helpdesk/bug tracking ends of the spectrum and can be run on your own Linux server, but it isn't an MTA. Evolution is a Outlook clone that runs on Linux, but I can't imagine how you would use it for bug tracking or a knowledge base for your helpdesk. Zimbra and Scalix are designed to replace Microsoft Exchange on Linux servers, but that's only one piece of your puzzle.
However you define your requirements, if you want to deploy everything in house, you will need an email server and an http server. Then you need to pick the individual applications you need, making sure everything can be done inside a web browser. HTML is the only language that can span your requirements.
We're moving a lot of our operations infrastructure around right now, so the specific implementation details and even general requirements are somewhat in flux. We're a small shop, so "fit and feel" is at least as important as checking off feature boxes.
FWIW, Email Center Pro (http://www.emailcenterpro.com) looks like it gets a lot right for our expected usage. w.r.t. linux, I was referring to it as a server platform -- we expect to do everything in a browser. We have a good wiki, so a(nother) knowledge base would go unused.
After doing a little more reading about the options in this space, it looks like the 'helpdesk' term has a specific connotation that is likely inappropriate for us. "Group email" appears to be the best keyword phrase I've found so far. Hopefully that tidbit helps to narrow down the field.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
I assume you aren't talking about mailing list software, so you must be looking at customer support via email. There is a place (a very small, restricted place) for using email for marketing, but if you are doing that, you need to look at specialized services that that can get your message past spam filters.
Basically, install PHP and MySQL on your server and you will have the greatest selections of options for "customer support" applications. I don't have one to recommend because I don't use them myself, but if that's your focus (to manage customer support), you should be able to find something that you like. If you want a full featured CRM to run on your LAMP stack, to do more than just respond to support issues, your best bet is SugarCRM Community Edition, unless you want to take some of the other OSS CRM programs out there, and rewrite them to suit your needs.
Depending on your in-house capabilities to design web front ends for relational databases, you could always roll your own solution, but it's a lot of work. On the other hand, if you don't maintain a database of customer contacts, there isn't much point to putting resources into a special application to send emails to your customers. Plus, email isn't the only way to communicate with customers. Sorry I can't help you beyond that.
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