This is a very interesting question. I can confirm that your company is not alone in considering retaining Microsoft Outlook while migrating to Linux-based messaging servers. A survey by Osterman Research in January 2004 confirmed that more than 55% of enterprises would seriously consider switching to an alternative messaging system that provided better performance or other advantages if the desktop infrastructure currently in place could be retained."
The question you ask is "why?" Some of the reasons that customers have given me include:
Due to the mission critical nature of e-mail, avoiding disruption to end users is a top priority. Changes in usability, functionality or user interface all represent a potential end user disruption and productivity impact that most organizations are hesitant to introduce.
- Outlook is already deployed, working and users are trained. This is especially strong reason in organizations that have deployed calendaring and scheduling with Outlook clients.
- The short-term IT challenge is with messaging infrastructure manageability, reliability or cost. The desktop strategy, including e-mail client choice, is a different decision scheduled for a different time.
- Limited awareness of alternative e-mail client solutions.
Ultimately choosing a messaging server that strongly supports Outlook, the IMAP and POP protocols and that offers a highly usable web client offers the greatest choice and flexibility at the client level. And fortunately, there are several messaging servers on Linux that support a range of clients. The level of client functionality supported can vary widely, so it's important to understand your requirements when evaluating alternatives.
This was first published in September 2004