Travels with Email

Travels with Email

This post is about a solution to a problem I’ve had for a while and you might also have: getting emails from different locations. If you download your email into your laptop while you travel, and then answer and delete, you won’t have the messages on your desktop when you get back to the office. If you deal with email at home then you don’t have it at work. Using the classic solution of a company mail server and Microsoft Outlook, it’s hard to not get disorganized as soon as you work on a second computer.I’ve explored several solutions: synchronizing with a USB thumb drive was attractive until I tried it. I’ve been told that Microsoft Exchange Server is a solution, but I’m also told it’s a large-company solution. We have 40 employees.

What I’ve been doing for several years is accessing the main desktop computer using GoToMyPC. When I’ve got good bandwidth that works, but when I don’t, it doesn’t. And now my phone does email too (gulp), so that rules out GoToMyPC.

Six weeks ago the company introduced Zimbra mail, replacing our previous mail server software, and it’s working for me. In fact I owe several people in the company a “you told me so” because it’s working so well. I’m posting this from a hotel in Kansas City, where I am for a single day. Instead of worrying about bandwidth for remote access of my desktop computer I go to my mail anywhere and Zimbra has it for me, with all my folders and sent mail, exactly as I left it.

The Zimbra implementation we have now also has contacts and calendar, and that means a single calendar, the same calendar on whichever computer I’m using at the time. This is significant because I’m one of those people who has computers everywhere, I guess because I like them, maybe because I’m old enough to remember writing with an IBM Selectric typewriter, and somewhere along my way I discovered that tools are power. So I have my several computers in my office, a tablet computer for meetings and travel, another desktop downstairs at home, and a laptop on my bedside stand.

The Zimbra mail system even connects to the Microsoft Outlook on each of my computers, so that I still have the Outlook interface but Zimbra manages it through its connections so that regardless of which computer I’m still looking at the same email, same sent and received, same folders, same calendar, and same contacts.

It’s not perfect yet. It’s been hard getting Zimbra to work with my Outlook 2007 and Vista on my main desktop in the office, but I finally did, after uninstalling and reinstalling Microsoft Office. And last week the Zimbra to Outlook to iPhone synchronization worked fine, but this week my tablet computer has stopped synchronizing my calendar with my iPhone. I guess somebody upgraded, either Apple or Microsoft or Zimbra; but at least the mail is still working perfectly with Zimbra on the iPhone, and when I get back to the office I’m going to uninstall and reinstall Office on the tablet, to see if that solves the problem.

So I apologize for sounding like a vendor, I have no relation to Zimbra, we didn’t get the product free, nobody asked me to review it. I’m just sharing because this has helped me get organized, and I am not all that well organized by nature.

Image: Shutterstock


Tim Berry Tim Berry is Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, Founder of Bplans, Co-Founder of Borland International, Stanford MBA, and co-founder of Have Presence. He is the author of several books and thousands of articles on business planning, small business, social media and startup business.

16 Reactions
  1. Tim,

    Google apps does all of this and more…for free! Get yourself a data plan for your Blackberry and download Google’s suite of mobile apps. Getyou email on your phone…and have it be USABLE!

    Pricing on Zimbra seems kind of high…unless you are running the OS version.

    Zimbra Network – Professional Edition
    ($50 per mailbox, 1 year subscription, 50 – 500 mailboxes)

    Zimbra Network – 1 Year Standard Support
    (Knowledge Base, Zimbra Support Portal, 2 Support Tickets, Emergency Phone Support)
    Zimbra Mobile
    (over 50 total mailboxes)

    Total 2,400.00

    Seems like a lot, when you can get a hosted solution that does the same thing (if not more) for free.

  2. Hey Thanks Aaron, that’s a welcome addition to my post. Actually I do use Google to do my mailserver at, which I host myself and has just a couple of mailboxes, and it works as well as you say.

    However, we pay $26 per mailbox for Zimbra, and with Google in our company setting it wouldn’t be free, it would have been the enterprise version for $50 per mailbox. And Zimbra has built-in supported solutions for synchronization with Outlook and lots of phone devices, which was also important.

    Google was a strong second place when our team decided on Zimbra for the whole company.


  3. I run a small business and find Gmail adequete for my needs. Sounds like nice software though, if expensive.

  4. Tim,

    No need to apologize for reviewing a product. In fact, I want to do more product reviews here at Small Business Trends. We get lots of email requests for them.


  5. Tim, thanks for the review. You are certaintly ahead of the curve. Hang-ten.


  6. Umm…in Outlook, why not use the Advanced Feature of leaving a copy of the email on the server? This way, you can check your email while on the road, but when you get back to the office, those emails will still come into your email box.

    This doesn’t address the calendar and contacts issue, but it does handle your “checking email remotely” probelm.

    I also agree with Aaron. Gmail will handle about 95% of what users typically need. It’s up to you if you think the other 5% is worth $2,400.

  7. Yeah, I used that advanced feature in Outlook for years, but I got tired of returning to the office after a trip to be greeted by a few hundred emails that your outlook is treating as new but you’ve already read. And the messages you sent as answers, if you need to refer to them, are stuck in Outlook on your laptop. Nothing that can’t be solved of course, but annoying.

  8. Hello, Is Zimbra a stand-alone independent company? These days, there are so many small vendors, and I do not know what is their life expectancy. Hence, I would try to manage my infrastructure needs with Google or any big players.

  9. Stanford T. Mings Jr.

    Hello Tim,

    I tried out Zimbra when I got tired of the legacy POP3 server that also supported my clients(I am an IT Consultant). But a number of things about Zimbra didn’t sit well with me. These things were not show stoppers, since they could be implemented if you were using the non-free version of the suite. This may change with the Yahoo purchase of Zimbra.

    The suite that I have settled on and have been testing is the Scalix Suite. I love it from a techie point of view in how the Scalix Outlook Connector is engineered. I know different environments require different solutions, but for my needs I like Scalix. If I was met with a different requirements, Zimbra may be the solution of choice.

    A number of posters have recommened the Google Apps as a possible solution. I have consiered them, however I like the idea of the buck stopping with me. I prefer to shoulder the blame of a mail system going down than saying that Google screwed up. Afterall, unlike years ago when we can blame Microsoft and everyone believes you based on MS past performance, blaming Google is like blaming a little puppy; they can’t do no evil !


  10. I think Google Apps is great for a small business of under 15 users and for personal use…. but for larger companies- do you really want to hand over your most valuable communications tool to a company that doesn’t even provide proactive customer support? Giving Google complete control over users email accounts and their data gives me the willies. I’m a Google fan, but they’re just too big to give any personal attention to my company.

    I’d much rather pay the money and guarantee that when I need something taken care of, all I have to do is make a phone call and it gets done. We use a company called to host our email (they use Zimbra) and although it costs more than FREE, they’re unbelievably reliable and I’d bet my business on them any day. I call a guy, they know my name and my company, and they get the job done right. You just can’t get that from Google- and when we’re talking my business, messaging reliability is far more important than my personal life…… Google for home- Managed Zimbra for work. That’s how I roll!

  11. The authorized Zimbra hosting providers list is here, for those interested in a trial, or getting up and running quickly. Many of these companies also provide specification, training and support if you want to run Zimbra yourself, too.

  12. You mention that Microsoft Exchange is “only for big businesses” and you have 40 employees. Many companies with far fewer than 40 employees use Exchange with a ton of success. To avoid the big company hassles of installing this stuff on your server, you just need to find a company that offers hosted Exchange on behalf of smaller companies. One example is There are thousands of others. Usually the price is well below the $50/month it seems you are paying for Google or Zimbra, plus you avoid all those annoying problems you seem to have. As soon as my email system required me to uninstall and reinstall Office, I’d cancel right then. You must have a lot more patience than I do. 🙂

  13. i would used to advance future. I tried it. I’ve been told that Microsoft Exchange Server is a solution

  14. I would try to manage my infrastructure needs with Google or any big players.
    but I know difrent environment,require different solutions.