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Basel schools using open source email and collaboration suite

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Over 36 000 students, teachers and staffers at more than twenty schools in the Swiss city of Basel are using Kolab, an open source email and collaboration suite. Using no more than just three ordinary servers, the system last year managed the sending of 4,25 million e-mails and received 5,2 million e-mails, said Torsten Grote, promoting the Kolab software at Linux Tag in Berlin, last week Wednesday.

The three school servers are running the Univention Corporate Server, built on top of the Debian Linux distribution. The configuration includes the use of web-server Apache, mail server Postfix and IMAP server Cyrus. The servers also use Spamassassin for filtering spam and Clamav for filtering computer viruses. The schools are supported by Kolab Systems, a Swiss ICT firm that originally developed the solution.

Grote: "The servers that are used are no super computer beasts. The IMAP server runs on a standard data centre server, a HP ProLiant BL460c G6. The webmail and SMTP servers are small virtual machines." The machines are managed by the IT department of the city of Basel.

Mobile
This department uses Kolab to offer the schools, pupils and staff a professional email solution. This includes managing of contacts and keeping an electronic agenda, on a wide range of computing platforms and mobile devices.

The schools have been using the free and open source software collection since 2009. The IT department recently completed an upgrade of the underlying Univention server. "That took a little effort, but it went smooth."

The schools have a free software strategy, explains Grote. He says the two key reasons for choosing Kolab are, first, its capability to handle the complex school organisation, and secondly, that it be made to comply to the country's strict privacy laws.

The IT department of the Basel municipality also wanted an easy to manage solution that could support a multitude of computers and mobile devices. "That is why it had to be a solution based on open standards and with modular components that could be installed as a distributed network service."

Case study
Kolab Systems today published a case study the school's use of the mail and collaboration server. The report, available in German and English, quotes one of the IT administrators working for the Basel schools: "We are delighted to use this free software solution which reliably meets our professional requirements."

More information:
Kolab Groupware Solution at Basler schools (in German)
About eduBS-Mail (in German)
IT Summit web site
Kolab Systems case study (in German)
Kolab Systems case study

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