Novell Groupwise to Zimbra Conversion

With Novell’s future in the air we began to make plans to migrate fully to an Active Directory environment. We highlighted email as one of our “first steps”, we could have continued Groupwise to Windows but chose to make the jump for a variety of …



With Novell’s future in the air we began to make plans to migrate fully to an Active Directory environment. We highlighted email as one of our “first steps”, we could have continued Groupwise to Windows but chose to make the jump for a variety of reasons. We decided to “outsource” email to Merit Networks since they cater to the education sector mostly and were deploying a Zimbra Cloud solution with various other state universities/schools. We had approximately 400 mailboxes that needed migration from Groupwise to Zimbra. In this post I’d like to focus on our migration process and highlight some issues we had/have and what steps, if any, we have done to correct them. Some of this is a work in progress and may not be issues in your environment!


  • We provided Merit a VPN session to a WinXP VM running on our private VMWare cloud. This allowed them access to our Groupwise 8 postoffice and various other resources they needed access to. (LDAP, PostOffice, Groupwise client, etc.)
  • Merit ran the Groupwise migration tool provided by Zimbra against our postoffice. We initially did some test accounts then our department accounts then the entire post office.
  • Currently as of 2/28/2011 you will need to contact Zimbra Support to obtain this tool, apparently there are some licensing issues related to the tool’s use. See:
  • We scheduled the migration for our mid-winter break which lasted Friday thru Monday, the conversion was mostly production by Sunday morning/afternoon.
  • We had approximatey 400 mailboxes with 80gigs worth of post office to convert/upload to the Merit cloud.


  • We had some initial issues with email attachments “following” along with their emails; we handled these on a case-by-case basis and only happened to a few users who used their email as a data silo. Also had some issues with contacts, mostly because of the differences between Groupwise and Zimbra’s use/storage of contacts.
  • Frequent Contacts is basically Emailed Contacts in Zimbra. Also the User’s Groupwise calendar is imported as their user name as a separate contact book as well, this caused some confusion with some of our users. User training helped eliminate this issue.
  • Zimbra by default uses “Conversation” view/mode similar to Gmail and others today. Most of our users are used to “Message” view so this caused some confusion. We sent out a mass email explaining the differences and how to switch between these modes using the View option menu.
  • We chose to use LDAP sync with eDirectory for our user/pass. information. We are currently exploring our options to cache/replicate the LDAP data so in case we have internal issues this does not impact user’s outside trying to login. Zimbra has excellent documentation for multi-server environments in their Support section! Will post more on this topic later.
  • Sorting of address book groups can currently only be done by order in which they were added, active feature request to change this:
  • Spam processing: We noticed a slight increase in the amount of spam we were receiving on day one. In Zimbra’s defense it does take time for the spam engine to train itself; we also came from a dual-Spam environment running Gwava locally and a Barracuda appliance.
  • To fully embrace “Web 2.0” we eliminated desktop icons for staff and directed them to our main website which has a staff email access link. We also provided manual directions for those wanting to create an internet favorite for IE/FireFox or their desktop. We also eliminated the “fat client” for all staff so we could become completely web based; all email access occurs on Zimbra Web.
  • Due to eliminating the fat client, we lost the easy integration of programs/mailto: links, etc….here are a couple options:

    Mailto: Links
    Use IE or FireFox as the *.exe for the process, pointing to your Zimbra path. As long as the user saves their user credentials a new page will automatically open and populate the mailto: address in a new email, works like a charm! Only negative is that every session opens a new window or tab depending on how the browser is configured. The Mailto: command is configured in the following location:


    In the Default expandable string value enter the following, customizing as needed: (use IE path if using IE)

    “C:Program FilesMozilla Firefoxfirefox.exe” https://YourServerPath/zimbra?app=mail&view=compose&to=%1

    You can then take an export of the command key and have a ready to use file to deploy using regedit /s file.reg or other utilities.

    We found a plugin from Habitech which seems to do the trick and also comes at a great price for enterprise use. Will post more on this topic later.

    You technically could use Zimbra Desktop for these functions but we wanted to stay completely away from desktop clients.

  • Cannot sort in Sent Items. Apparently in earlier versions this was a feature but due to multiple bug/RFE requests and multiple opinions, Zimbra pulled support in version 5.0 and higher. See posts on the forums for more info.
  • Using an image in your signature line will show an attachment on every e-mail you send (not really an issue, just FYI)
  • Our staff also have Gmail accounts through Google Apps. for Education that many use for the calendar features. Google Calendars CalDAV support is currently not offered in Zimbra Web fully, see this RFE:
    meaning users can create a manual sync in web via the create calendar function but they will need to retrieve their iCal link from Google calendar and then the sync is only one way, meaning Google events will show in the Zimbra Web but can’t be created or edited there.

We have been into our Zimbra solution for about one week officially and so far so good! I will update this posting as we go through discovering solutions or workarounds for some of the issues mentioned. Currently Merit’s production cloud is running verion 6.0.10, 7.0 is out which may/does address some of the usability/RFE requests we have seen.

      Author: Travis Kensil

      Director of IT. Husband and father. Michigan beachbum.

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