Microsoft Exchange Server 2019 vs Kerio Connect

Organizations wishing to operate their own mail servers have a number of different mail server platforms that they can choose between. Two of the leading platforms available today are Microsoft Exchange Server 2019 and Kerio Connect. This article examines the similarities and differences between these two platforms.

Organization Size

Microsoft Exchange Server can theoretically be used for any sized organization, although it is most often described as an enterprise grade mail platform. Microsoft does offer a Standard Edition of Exchange Server that is targeted toward non-enterprise class organizations, but its cost and complexity might be a deterrent to adoption by SMB class organizations.

Kerio Connect is specifically designed for the SMB market. It offers many of the same features as Exchange Server 2019, but tends to be easier to use. Perhaps more telling is the fact that Kerio Connect has a licensing plan that supports as few as ten users. The largest number of users covered by a Kerio Connect licensing plan is 2999 users.

Time to Deploy

The amount of time required for deploying Exchange Server and Kerio Connect will vary from one organization to the next, based on things like IT expertise and the performance of the available computing hardware. Generally speaking, Kerio Connect can be installed and fully configured in less than an hour.

It can take a couple of hours to install Exchange Server, largely because of all of the prerequisite components that must also be installed. It is worth noting however, that Exchange Server usually requires extensive pre-deployment planning.

Basic Capabilities

Both Kerio Connect and Exchange Server 2019 offer support for Email, calendars, contacts, and tasks, and both platforms provide very similar capabilities. For example, Kerio Connect and Exchange Server 2019 both allow for things like message filtering rules, shared calendars, delegation,  and free / busy assistance.

One significant difference between the two product’s basic feature sets is that Kerio Connect has native support for instant messaging. Microsoft also supports instant messaging, but does so through separate products such as Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business.

Administrative Capabilities

Kerio Connect and Microsoft Exchange include Web based administrative consoles. Kerio Connect utilizes the MyKerio console  to centralize the management of multiple Kerio Connect servers, however each Kerio Connect server includes its own built-in web management interface, while Exchange Server exposes similar capabilities through the Exchange Admin Center.

Not surprisingly, the Exchange Server and Kerio Connect management consoles are a lot alike. Both provide access to a variety of tools for managing user mailboxes, storage quotas, security settings, and much more.

One major difference between Exchange Server 2019 and Kerio Connect is that Microsoft provides an additional administrative tool called the Exchange Management Shell, a PowerShell-based command line environment. The Exchange Admin Center can be used for most of the day to day administrative tasks, but those wishing to make low level configuration changes must often use the command line to do so. The Exchange Management shell is also useful for scripting bulk changes to large numbers of mailboxes.

Security

Microsoft Exchange Server is tightly integrated with the Microsoft Active Directory. Although the Exchange Admin Center does provide access to various security and compliance features, many aspects of Exchange mailbox security are implemented at the Active Directory level. The Exchange Admin Center exposes settings related to malware filtering, spam filtering, connection filtering, and domain keys (which are used for message authentication purposes). Exchange Server 2019 also includes numerous features related to auditing, eDiscovery, message retention, journaling, and auditing.

In Contrast, Kerio Connect does not require Active Directory integration, but does support it (along with other popular directories such as Apple Open Directory, Linux PAM, and a local user database). As such, Kerio Connect natively includes some basic mailbox level security features for the benefit of those who opt to use a local user database in place of the Active Directory or another directory system. For example, Kerio Connect includes a set of features that are meant to protect user passwords.

Like Exchange Server, Kerio Connect has support for domain keys (DKIM Signatures), and has built-in protection against directory harvesting attacks, and supports things like encrypted emails (S/MIME) and the remote wiping of mobile devices.

Both products offer an extensive collection of security features that go well beyond those that are listed in this article. Either platform should be able to keep your data secure, when properly configured. It is worth noting however, that because Exchange Server 2019 is a true enterprise class solution, it contains far more compliance related features than Kerio Connect does.

Conclusion

Although not completely identical to one another, Kerio Connect and Microsoft Exchange have feature sets that are very similar to one another. The primary differences between the two platforms are cost and scope. Kerio Connect is significantly less expensive than Microsoft Exchange, but is intended for use in SMB organizations. Kerio Connect tends to be easier to configure and manage than Exchange Server. Conversely, Exchange Server costs more, but is well positioned for use in enterprise class organizations.

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