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Missing features that prevent migration from Exchange to SmarterMail - 1: mail messages and To Do LIST
Problem reported by Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS - 9/8/2021 at 6:02 AM
Resolved
The first missing feature migrating from Exchange that make our users complain is the ability to flag an email as "to be completed" and the related ability to manage completion.

Outlook + Exchange do it like a charm, SmarterMail doesn't support that and if you use it in Outlook you loose all your ToDo list management data migrating to SmarterMail and/or resyncing Outlook.

Is this function planned?


Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS - Head of SysAdmins
Currently manages 3 SmarterMail installations (1 in cloud for SERSIS which provides service to a few hundreds 3rd party Mail Domains + 2 on premise to customers)

25 Replies

Reply to Thread
4
Ionel Aurelian Rau Replied
+100
3
Sébastien Riccio Replied
Same as above
Sébastien Riccio
System & Network Admin

1
Anne Campbell Replied
Been waiting a long time for this
 
2
Heimir Eidskrem Replied
If its meant to be an Exchange alternative it must have Exchange functionality.

0
Kyle Kerst Replied
Employee Post
Currently using this functionality will result in the message being flagged server-side. However, we do not currently support the flag for followup tomorrow, next week, etc functionality. That said, the flag status itself should translate back to the server and remain through a re-sync. I believe this is planned for the future though! 
Kyle Kerst
Technical Support Specialist
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
4
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS Replied
Hi Kyle!

How it works now isn't enough for users migrating from Exchange.

Almost all of our Exchange customers have some users who use the full functionality with task completion progress management.

For this reason we consider its lack (together with the lack of Color Categories) as a blocker for migration from MS Exchange, and therefore for these reasons SmarterMail cannot be considered a full substitute for MS Exchange.

However, no problem for migrations from Kerio Connect.
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS - Head of SysAdmins
Currently manages 3 SmarterMail installations (1 in cloud for SERSIS which provides service to a few hundreds 3rd party Mail Domains + 2 on premise to customers)
1
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS Replied
Is there any news on that?
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS - Head of SysAdmins
Currently manages 3 SmarterMail installations (1 in cloud for SERSIS which provides service to a few hundreds 3rd party Mail Domains + 2 on premise to customers)
6
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
Yes, will be in the upcoming BETA.
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS Replied
@Tim:

Great! I'm very excited and we all are looking forward to this!!!

THX
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS - Head of SysAdmins
Currently manages 3 SmarterMail installations (1 in cloud for SERSIS which provides service to a few hundreds 3rd party Mail Domains + 2 on premise to customers)
0
Anne Campbell Replied
Great news thank you 
0
Sébastien Riccio Replied
Hello Tim, great news to have this feature coming.
Sébastien Riccio
System & Network Admin

1
FrankyBoy Replied
Hello Tim - Great news! Have a lot of customers waiting about this! :)
0
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
Crazy, because the only request we had ever seen was this post which didn't have much support.

Lot of this TodoList and TaskList stuff is all bastardized into WinMail.DAT's etc.  Its some god awful stuff that Microsoft abandoned a long time ago. 
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
3
Proto Replied
Tim:
I don't mean to be negative here and I am certainly  not an ST basher; however, I think a great many of us have failed to articulate our points well enough if we haven't brought ST to the understanding that part and parcel of becoming an Exchange Alternative (the premier Exchange alternative) is to embrace Outlook and all of its quirks.

Not many users understand or care whether it is Exchange or something else underpinning it all and few understand the functionality or limitations of the protocols.  They are focused on the Sizzle, not the Steak.  For a very large number of them, especially the influencers within the organizations, that Sizzle is surfaced through Outlook.  

I  understand that there are pieces that don't make sense to support and other pieces that just place the ST brand all over something that already isn't working as it should for MS; but, an organization coming from M365 or considering migrating to it vs. something else, and looking for more than basic E-Mail functionality as might very well be handled by IMAP, will be looking at synced resources and the more advanced influencers will be looking at groups and color coding and task list and todo lists and other things.  For many, if not most, the lens into this will be through Outlook.

In a world of greatest opportunity, the feature set in Outlook connected to SM Enterprise with optional licenses would be the same features set when connected to M365 or an on-premise Exchange server.  I believe that is the goal we have somehow failed to communicate.

With utmost respect and appreciation for the huge gamble you took and the commitment of resources you made to getting us this far,
Thank you and have a great day!
SmarterMail(tm)
MAPI over HTTP - Let's flesh it out for Outlook with a full set of Exchange like features!
0
Anne Campbell Replied
Proto, 

As an organisation we exclusively use Smartermail for email I'm not sure why anyone would need outlook on top, other than some of the features requested above!  Yes it is the sizzle we are focused on as that's what makes our business more efficient. Being able to allocate/ flag mail in a shared inbox to the appropriate person to deal with saves all team members having to read and check if they need to deal with it.  How the mail gets there etc is irrelevant we just want to be able to process and handle it the quickest most efficient way! So maybe the sizzle as just as important as the steak?

0
Proto Replied
Anne,

Although I have the recent versions of Outlook loaded, as well as emClient,  I too use the web interface frequently.  I used it exclusively for a close to a year to really get a feel for it and to be able to advocate for using it. I think ST have done a very good job of it and that the limitations or wrinkles in the approach are not a result of anything ST have overlooked.  It’s the best or only way to surface the other advanced features although few of our customers use them.  If it were fattened out a bit more, perhaps with some hooks that would allow us to integrate in a SIP client (it may already be possible) it might be an even more viable alternative to those parts of 365.

i agree completely that for most users ‘how the mail gets there’ is irrelevant and that ‘the quickest and most efficient way’ is key.  That’s what I class as the sizzle as in the old  adage ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak’.

Old habits die hard. That helps keep Outlook relevant.  It’s “free and we already have it with Office” also plays into it.  Some of those types of users can be converted to the web interface.  There are some functional things that make Outlook impossible to overlook and extremely difficult to replace in the corporate market we provide services to though.  Among those would be integration with other products.  We simply don’t have an alternative.

I am no fan of Outlook. I, and any of our customers who know about it, are very concerned with Microsoft’s new approach on mobile devices (See Tim’s recent posts on it.)  At the same time it has been the Outlook integration piece of the touted “exchange alternative” that has cost us large clients and thousands of users over the years, certainly not the steak.  We have found the ST steak to be consistently stable and reliable since moving over to it as our alternative offering at about the time of the release of v3 many years ago.  ST have navigated a steady course through the evolution of the product.  That said, there are few of our long term clients that we could keep without Outlook support even though the majority of users may not use it.  As it is put forward as an Exchange Alternative,  the market we, and it seems many others here, face is one in which comparable support for Outlook is essential.  I wish that weren’t the case and we see more acceptance of web based interfaces for many products now but, for now, it’s essential and it is a lure that lands the large fish.
SmarterMail(tm)
MAPI over HTTP - Let's flesh it out for Outlook with a full set of Exchange like features!
2
Jay Dubb Replied
@Anne Campbell said, "As an organisation we exclusively use Smartermail for email I'm not sure why anyone would need outlook on top, other than some of the features...."

That is exactly why:  features.  There is a world of difference between webmail with a decent feature set, and Outlook which does everything and then some.  You can do things-- important, useful things-- in Outlook that SM webmail cannot do in its current form.  Personal distribution lists is the first thing that comes to mind, because we have so many people asking for them.  We have clients that use these daily.

@Proto, +1 on your post, couldn't agree more.  We have been running Exchange Server for longer than I have been with the company.  We have just under 1,000 users on Exchange.  It's expensive but it's a solid and mature product, and the server NEVER gives us a moment's trouble.  We get VERY few support calls from Exchange users, because the product just plain works.  We have it because some customers won't accept anything less than a full-on Exchange + Outlook experience.  Microsoft's push to the cloud has been a gut punch to service providers, because they are directly competing against us now, taking our customers from a position of advantage.  They OWN the software and can give seat licenses away for free or for pennies.  They undercut us on price, because we have to cover infrastructure costs PLUS the steep Microsoft licensing costs.  Advantage: Microsoft.  

Smartermail announcing MAPI support was our hope for transitioning AWAY from Exchange, while still offering the all-important Exchange-like experience and actually being able to COMPETE with Microsoft on a somewhat level playing field as far as features vs. price.  Right now we are part way there.  Yes, some features are missing and our hope is they will be added in time.  For that, we can be patient.  Our main struggles right now are MAPI bugs and instability.  We jumped into Smartermail's MAPI features in November, added 1,400+ users with MAPI & EAS, and our rock-solid mail server (previously only hosting POP & IMAP) was rendered unpredictable and unstable.  We've suffered numerous bugs, service crashes, and opened many tickets.

We are still keeping our hope on Smartermail and will stay the course, but right now just about every day we are taking a beating with phone calls ranging from irritated, to impatient, to angry, and demands to explain when the problems will finally be resolved.  It's been a very tough 3 months.
 
2
Proto Replied
Jay:
We run on high quality, and likely over provisioned, hardware.  Under SPLA we have SA and ready access to upgrades and patches.  The ST underpinnings are very solid for us and, like you, the IMAP and to a lesser extent POP could be described as nothing less than Rock Solid in our experience.  There have been severe calendar wrinkles and things like that predating MAPI.  The more advanced protocols have been a challenge and I think you can see from historical Tim and employee posts that ST didn't really embrace Outlook functionality as a priority.   MAPI has certainly introduced some new challenges.  Having waded in as deep as they have there is only one profitable way out for ST and that is to be a real alternative.  It sure looks to me like they are plying serious resources to getting there and that they are now open to and better understanding that Outlook support is critical. 

Perhaps this should be a new thread but I'll stick my neck in the noose here (reluctantly because this thread is so public and well beyond licensed users).  MAPI has posed some challenges to be sure and I think it would naïve to expect that some of them wouldn't perk up to the sizzle level and become apparent to users.  I accept that and over the years we have put many unpaid hours into being proactive and minimizing or eliminating the impact when things do slip through.  It will be no different with MAPI other than the added complexity and wider scope of the things that may be impacted.

We are paying for the MAPI licensing essentially to continue to support one or two key users in a domain of hundreds that are using MAC and need EWS which is now bundled with MAPI.  Although we have done some minor rollouts we have not encouraged or even made most of the users aware of the MAPI option.  The few that are active are accounts using a recent version of Outlook that used  auto-discover or a few where we are the MSP and have significant ability to monitor and be proactive.  It works for us in part because we've been very cautious about upgrades and looked before we took the leaped.  We are several months back in releases and what that version supports works pretty well.

What would be very useful for us would be an approach that other developers we work with take.  Once something is through beta it is released as the leading edge product with the most up to date features.  After some time, typically a few weeks, and following a few inevitable bug fixes and tweaks, it becomes the stable full release product, without any additional features having been added  and the cycle begins with the next release, including new features,  being the leading edge product.

With each of these SM releases there are fixes to the inevitable things that slipped though but there are also new things added that have  introduced the need for more fixes.   What we really need is for something like 8025 to have spawned a track that fixed any of the issues within it to become the stable mainstream release without adding/risking new functionality so that we could safely upgrade.  Then the new advancements would go though beta and get released into the leading edge track which would run parallel to ongoing feature additions in the next candidate leading edge release.  When the leading edge track meets the stable criteria it once again become the stable release track and the track into which the new feature were being added becomes the next leading edge track.  

The current approach is extremely risky from our perspective.  Each time it looks like we  have something we can safely move forward with, something significant emerges with additional features that have been added.  I think it is causing many of us to hold back on MAPI.

To be fair to ST there are so many wrinkles in Outlook and the documentation for the protocols that many of the problems are not of their making.  I think that is all the more reason to move forward with stable and leading edge releases.  Not all of what has gone wrong would have been foreseeable in the beta testing, it needs to be exposed to a larger base of use cases and that is what the leading edge track and the commitment of resources behind it to react quickly is all about.

Finally, posting of these "horror stories" as many would interpret the calendar issues (which we've seen pre MAPI) to be, for all to see, introduces another problem.  If you have clients with an IT department rather than your organization being the MSP, and if that IT department is reading though these threads, they are likely contractually and ethically bound to act in the employers best interest and take them into consideration.  Under many contracts, failure to draw the discussion to the attention of management or to investigate moving the organization to another platform would be grounds for dismissal or exiting the contract.  I know with certainty that I am not the only one to have held back posting an observation that might have been useful because of this.  Again, using other developers we work with as an example, these types of threads are often limited to licensed users or even, in some case, invited participants from among licensed users although that wouldn;t be my preference.
SmarterMail(tm)
MAPI over HTTP - Let's flesh it out for Outlook with a full set of Exchange like features!
3
Jay Dubb Replied
@Proto, totally agree again on getting separate Stable and New-Release branches.  Hopefully ST will consider that moving forward.

Like you, I am concerned about posting too much here, because the forum is open to the public.  I wish there was a forum that was restricted to only customers with current support agreements.  (Maybe require a PIN code to log in, and post that PIN in our support account portal.)  We need a place where we as customers can openly discuss ideas, problems, frustrations, etc., without driving away potential prospects, and without (publicly) shooting SmarterTools in the foot for deficiencies, or complaining too much while they are actively working to fix something. 

There are noisy whiners and complainers who make little problems sound like the end of the world, and that tends to drown out other issues that are actually more impactful.  But likewise, there is value in "hearing" the thoughts and rumblings of your paying customers, because THAT is what makes or breaks a relationship-- willingly listening to candid feedback from your customers, even if it's not pretty.  Ugly feedback often reveals genuine opportunities to improve the product.  Hence, the private customer-only forum suggestion.

We do like Smartermail a LOT, and are going to stick with it.  It's a lot easier to administer than Exchange, especially since Microsoft replaced a great management tool set with a crappy web-admin portal and forced us to use powershell command line for stuff we used to do with point-and-click.  Exchange 2010 was the last great version, and 2013, 2016, etc. feels dystopian.

But in staying the course with Smartermail, we are taking a beating every day since going to MAPI.  We did the 30 day MAPI trial before upgrading our license, and in our initial testing-- our team, and the IT team of the big customer we just onboarded, who were given demo accounts-- we hit only a few small snags that have already been corrected.  There was NOTHING in our testing that made us NOT want to move forward.  Testing went great.  It wasn't until we loaded up the server (which has WAY more resources than what our Exchange server is running on, with similar mailbox count) with users, that the hidden MAPI cracks started showing. 

So we wait.  And hope.  And put out daily fires and reassure our clients that "it will get better soon".  And we try to be mindful that these are public forums when expressing our thoughts.
 
2
Proto Replied
Bang on and I hope we see some upvotes for a modified forum for licensed users with active support agreements.

The two tracks would move things along much faster I think.
SmarterMail(tm)
MAPI over HTTP - Let's flesh it out for Outlook with a full set of Exchange like features!
1
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
We might have this resolved in the upcoming BETA.  You should participate for sure and give it a test and give feedback.  Lot of new accommodations in this upcoming release.  There is a whole funky gray area that Microsoft has depreciated but somewhat supports etc.  I hope to flush a lot of that out with BETA users so we can finalize our MAPI implementation.  

Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS Replied
@TIM: can I test the beta without using my actual license (I don't wanna use the production server, of course)

Can I set a second server with a temporary BETA license?

P.S.: and... do you have an ETA for this beta?
Gabriele Maoret - SERSIS - Head of SysAdmins
Currently manages 3 SmarterMail installations (1 in cloud for SERSIS which provides service to a few hundreds 3rd party Mail Domains + 2 on premise to customers)
2
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
The BETA will not require you to use your license key.  More information will be coming shortly.



Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com
0
Jay Dubb Replied
@Tim Uzzanti said on 2/2:  "We might have this resolved in the upcoming BETA."

Tim, could you tell us which post you were replying to, or what "this" refers to as being potentially resolved with the beta?  
4
Tim Uzzanti Replied
Employee Post
The BETA will carry over Colors and Categories from an Exchange migration and we will also have better handling in Microsoft Outlook for Windows (MAPI)... with some caveats!

How Microsoft built MAPI categories looks as if they were built by a kid just learning to program.  They literally store the English name "Red" as the category so acts as both the name of the category and color.  Microsoft learned their lesson with other protocols years later but because they were built so poorly in MAPI categories are often orphaned in Exchange and to accommodate the more recent protocols.
Tim Uzzanti
CEO
SmarterTools Inc.
(877) 357-6278
www.smartertools.com

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