Latest news re Exchange alternatives

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bcmit

Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2010 64 bit
Email Account
POP3
Please forgive me if this question has been asked ad nauseum. It's been > 8 years since I last investigated this question.

Our small office (10 staff) needs to share Outlook calendars. In particular, we need to know both when people are busy but also be able to view/edit their appointments (and create new ones).

Exchange Server seems like overkill to us.

Is there a strong contender for alternate solution?

Thank you
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
You'll need a utility if you want to edit each others calendars, although Office 365 (hosted exchange) is a good option - running your own exchange server is overkill, but hosted is gives you a number of useful features, although for 10 people, it's going to cost between $50 and $100 a month.

See Sharing Outlook Calendar and Contacts without Exchange Server for your non-Exchange options.
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
You'll need a utility if you want to edit each others calendars, although Office 365 (hosted exchange) is a good option - running your own exchange server is overkill, but hosted is gives you a number of useful features, although for 10 people, it's going to cost between $50 and $100 a month.




See Sharing Outlook Calendar and Contacts without Exchange Server for your non-Exchange options.
 

bcmit

Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2010 64 bit
Email Account
POP3
You'll need a utility if you want to edit each others calendars, although Office 365 (hosted exchange) is a good option - running your own exchange server is overkill, but hosted is gives you a number of useful features, although for 10 people, it's going to cost between $50 and $100 a month.

See Sharing Outlook Calendar and Contacts without Exchange Server for your non-Exchange options.
I've also been asked to create an automated "corporate" calendar that amalgamates the 4 owners' updated calendars - again, allowing everyone to see both when the owners are busy and what they are doing. Is there a way to do this with Outlook/Hosted Exchange?
 

bcmit

Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2010 64 bit
Email Account
POP3
Looks like OfficeCalendar.com does all that I require.

Has anyone else tried it? Any experienced testimonials?
 

bcmit

Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2010 64 bit
Email Account
POP3
They do have a trial, and we tested it and ultimately purchased this solution.

It's a good deal if you locally install the server software and database -- which is to say that you install the software on a local "server" computer. Note that any Windows PC can act as the server computer as comparatively little computing power is required. I was going to install the server component on the reception computer, but we have a stand-alone computer running Windows 7 Home Premium that manages several low-impact maintenance tasks (backs up an unrelated database, syncs various network folders, etc) and I installed the OC server software onto this PC. Works like a beaver. Also note that if you wish to allow your users to sync from external locations via the Internet then you will need to add a port-forwarding entry to your router. We've done this and it works perfectly, even with the local installation.

Where they get you is with the "hosted" solution, as then you are paying monthly as opposed to a one-time cost. The OfficeCalendar.com people are quite pushy about using their pay-every-month hosted solution, but it is not required. Wait, I spoke too fast. IF you require sync'ing to a mobile phone (iOS, android, etc), then you DO need the hosted option. I seem to recall that it will cost an extra $400 per year per mobile phone. Make no mistake: over five years, the hosted solution is MUCH more costly than the locally-installed solution.

The other draw-back is that you either share your calendar or you don't. OC shows the full text of your calendar entries. It is not possible to install OC and tell it to only show "busy" for all your appointments. However, it is possible to specify "Private" on an individual basis (which then displays only as "busy"). So, if you want to share your calendar but you don't want other viewers to see the text of your appointments, you must mark each appointment as "Private" and continue to do so with each new entry. For us, we have one user who has elected to do this and it's a pain but it does solve the problem. (Note that you can change the View on your calendar to list all appointments as "items" and then go down that list changing the drop-down for each appointment and setting it to Private. This is much, much faster than opening each appt, but it still takes a great deal of time if you have hundreds of appts.)

OC automatically creates a "group calendar" and allows you to add specified people to this calendar, which then lets everyone see what everyone else is doing. Members can be configured to view-only, view-and-add, or view-and-add-or-delete appts from other users' calendars. Additionally, you can add an appt to the "group calendar" and it will be placed into every members' calendar.

You can also create "resource" calendars for company vehicles, projectors, board rooms, etc which allows you to schedule these resource-type items. Works great!

In short, this is an excellent program, although not cheap at $95 per user. However, it's a significantly better deal if you can locally host the software/database.
 

bcmit

Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2010 64 bit
Email Account
POP3
We have now been using this product for several months and all is not well.

There are two ways to configure the product: (1) store OC data within the organization (local store), or (2) to store OC data on their system, called OfficeCalendar Online. There is a sizeable price difference.

OPTION THE FIRST

With option #1 (in-house storage), you install the OfficeCalendar server onto any local workstation (we use a semi-dedicated Win7HP box) and configure all other workstations running OCal client to communicate with this "server" via its IP address and the port number you configured into OC Server. To make it work through the Internet, just configure the router to forward that port to the local OCal Server. For this configuration, you pay just the number of seats and you're done. However, this system will not work with mobile devices - for them, you need option #2. Also, the OCal staff greatly push Option #2 when trying to get any help configuring option #1. Still, I was able to get it setup with little difficulty and this is the option we are using.

OPTION THE SECONDE

You can also configure OCal so that your company data (changes to users' calendars, etc) are stored in a private account at OfficeCalendar.com -- and this is what the OCal staff strongly encourage. Well they might, as it becomes a monthly utility cost amounting to several hundred dollars per year in perpetuity. Great deal for OC, not so great for customers.

OUR PROBLEMS

OC support is also $paid$ -- the initial free support lasts only 30 days, by which time we had just got the program working. And don't misunderstand: it *does* work. And we were Very Happy during that first forty or fifty days -- until I had to add a new user. Suddenly random workstations could not communicate with the OC server computer. And our free support had run out, so I'm on my own. No worries: there are several tools built into the product to help.

When OC cannot contact the server computer, it pops-up an error message headed "OfficeCalendar Server could not be reached". You can see this message on page 63 of the version 8 User Guide (http://officecalendar.fileburst.com/documents/ocuserguidev8.pdf)

This message has five buttons: [Configure] [Ignore] [Work Offline] [Troubleshoot] and [Retry]. The TROUBLESHOOT button has several options that should help, including the ability to "ping" the OC Server computer. Note that this option, and its several sub-features are not only poorly documented, they are not documented at all. Everything regarding troubleshooting is "phone support". However, this "ping" feature often doesn't work (no explanation or suggestions) and frequently the "ping" button isn't even on the screen at all! At present, I am struggling with this. Most frustrating.

My solution each time has been to uninstall the OC Server component completely, reinstall it from scratch USING A DIFFERENT PORT, re-add all the users (not a huge deal), and then visit each of workstation (many remote users, so this is a huge deal) and re-configure the client. An enormous pain in the patooshka. I find that I must repeat this exercise every time I add or remove a user.

The SUPPORT tab also contains a few buttons that also should help (page 35 of the ver 8 User Guide): [Debug Mode] [Show Data Files] [Reset Group Calendars] and [Reset Entire Sync]. They are equally poorly (read: "not at all") documented. Everything says, "phone OfficeCalendar for support". PAID support, that is.

From what we are going through, I suggest seeking a different solution.
 

larry

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2010 64 bit
Email Account
Exchange Server
Wow. I can understand why they charge for support, but as a wise developer once told me "paid support usually means there are too many problems and free support eats the profits". As a result, I always check the support options and if the support fees are too high or the free period is not long enough, I reconsider.

His attitude is that if a program is good, there will be very few support calls sucking at profits. (He offers free support, but alas, doesn't offer anything for outlook.)
 
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