My first inquiry was in this thread a little over a year ago, Absolute Noob - Is Zimbra right for me?. I'll tell you now, the answer is yes. I have one installation, and am working on a second. This is all for my own modest needs, one guy, small business, a few sites and side projects. As a technology guy, there's nothing in Zimbra that I've found to be outside of my scope of ability. The user community here is great. Of course this is just my experience and every individual has their own set of skills, patience, time, and requirements.
There are a number of issues that make this platform a difficult choice. I don't want to go into too much detail and I can only hope that this feedback is helpful to everyone who might be affected.
Many of these points are related, so the explanation for one point might be found in another.
- The documentation is really bad. There are far too many undocumented or under-documented details, where we need to research the nuances of how some important feature works. Information in this forum is required to get a Zimbra environment up and to keep it maintained. The answers are only available in this forum or some blog, courtesy of individuals who have taken their personal time to help others.
- The wiki is unmaintained, subject to error, and out of date. This is a critical source of information but too many of the pages force further inquiries in the forum. The wiki isn't updated with information based on the deep knowledge and experience we find here. This makes the software costly (in terms of time and perhaps money) to use. That decreases its value, popularity, and sales potential.
- The company is unresponsive. I understand that the community edition is "unsupported", but that doesn't excuse complete lack of response to enhancement suggestions, bug reports, complications, and especially the wiki. Where the existence of the community edition might be intended to get the product into the hands of potential clients, a freebie offered toward future revenue, the lack of feedback and user interaction from the company compels me not to recommend the platform for corporate use. I'd really enjoy a process where we could discuss these concepts but I don't think the company is interested, and if they were I have no faith that they would take any action based on feedback. I've emailed directly and offered to provide notes and changes to the wiki. This is the spirit of FOSS, right? But when the keeper of the wiki doesn't process feedback, that's not very FOSSy.
- Everything I'm saying here is related to the bottom line - commercial sales. Somehow the company doesn't seem that interested in its own prosperity. Is it understaffed? Maybe they don't have enough people who speak Engish well enough to coordinate information links between forum and wiki and product documentation. I can only imagine such excuses as they don't communicate.
- I do see tweets about people in other countries using Zimbra, and events. This is what makes me think they just don't have a significant presence in English-speaking countries, and that perhaps they're not big enough yet to allocate resources.
- Related, I feel like each of us is alone out here. I don't want to bother the power users in this forum any more than necessary. They give their time to help others outside of the scope of their own responsibility to business and family. I appreciate their information and advice, and the time they spend with others who do post here. I'd like to find more resources of information, but this platform is rather obscure. I do get a lot of info from StackOverflow and similar sites, where we can tweak specific components which are included in the Zimbra package. But getting information like this is time consuming, and discussions on various topics are likely to be years old. Are old notes still valid? Do they apply to Zimbra? With poor docs and a somewhat small community it's difficult to know what will work without simply trying old recommendations.
- The people who provide information in this forum are great. But there aren't enough of them. Zimbra needs more users who are technically competent to provide information here and elsewhere. This will help to relieve the burden on those who contribute here. Without that, people can get burned out, and leave, and that will significantly affect marketing and sales.
- There aren't enough Zimlets or other plugins from the community. If you look at other products with a plugin model you'll see there are many more third-party offerings. This attracts commercial interest. It is to the company's advantage to have a thriving developer community around the platform.
So on one hand I'm saying this is a great platform. On the other, with information hard to find, and developers and company not interested in communications with the community, adopting this platform becomes costly in terms of time=money. Someone could suggest that the world would be better if I/we paid them. But there are people who pay them, and the docs and wiki are still awful. So what else can be done?
I've already offered assistance. I'll do it again publicly. I'll check with others and offer notes to improve the docs. But the company/developers need to accept the results of that work or it's a one sided effort. Without collaboration like this, I'll still continue to use the software and do my best at some point to publish some notes. But I do this out of personal obligation to the FOSS concept, for appreciation of the software, and for gratitude to the provider. But this i not with a huge amount of admiration for the provider or respect for their business model.
How simple can it be? Good software. A helpful community. How does a business reasonably disregard this and the opportunities that it all presents.
Obviously I'm confused. I hope I can post next year with a completely different perspective.
Thanks for your time.