Microsoft Outlook remains the most popular e-mail software used in law firms. The growth in Web-based e-mail used and the continued curiosity of lawyers in using cloud systems means that there is a greater chance that Outlook will not be on a lawyer’s PC. Zimbra is a great, free alternative. Originally a Yahoo! product, it was sold in 2010 to VMWare, which is a leading virtualization software company. They also offer an open source e-mail server called Zimbra.
IMAP & Backup
There are a number of things to like about Zimbra in addition to the price. Since it supports IMAP and POP, you can use Zimbra with a Google Mail account or one from your ISP. This is pretty common among e-mail applications, including Postbox Express and Thunderbird.
However, Zimbra has a particular function that seems unique which is that it will do a regular backup of these IMAP e-mail accounts, not just for offline use but for business continuity purposes. This may make lawyers who are cautious about using the cloud feel less at its mercy.
Social Media Support
Another unusual feature is the built in social media support. While you can add RSS feeds from Twitter to your Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird programs, Zimbra has a social tab. You can add your Twitter and Facebook accounts to the software and it will show your message streams on this tab. If you use Twitter like I do, as a research tool rather than an interaction point, having this information within your e-mail software may make you more productive.
Another feature common to Zimbra and Outlook is the ability to look at messages across different folders and mail accounts. For example, if you have both your ISP and Google Mail accounts in Zimbra, you can quickly see all unread messages in either account, in any folder. This cuts down the need to go into each e-mail account and look for messages that you have filtered out of your inbox.
One aspect of Zimbra that I found a bit troubling was that it seemed slow. Admittedly, I was testing it on a netbook with 2GB of RAM and Windows 7 but I would have expected it to be a bit faster. If your work computer is a bit older or underpowered, you may want to test Zimbra for awhile to see if it meets your needs.