PHP:or:Ruby Webmail program I can hack?
February 7, 2006 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some sort of Web-Based-Mail system that I can install on my server that I would be able to interface through PHP or Ruby.

Specifically, I'd like to build a little web-based application that I can use to catalog my day-to-day business communications. I'd record phone calls and faxes by hand, but have all of my email automagically loaded into the system by interfacing with this webmail program.

I am NOT looking for "just do it in outlook" responses, First, I don't trust MS Products' stability with my business data, Second, I'm planning on building on tools such as billing, budget, etc...

posted by hatsix to Technology (7 answers total)
There is a whole category of products that do this. Its called Contact Relationship Management (CRM) and there are tons of opens source systems. I don't have much experience with them personally so I don't have any specific recommendations, but I do know from past experience that re-inventing the wheel is usually more difficult than it sounds.

But if you're looking for something really basic, just use the standard UNIX mailboxes with an IMAP server (Cyrus) and a webmail program that uses IMAP (like Squirrel or Hoard). That way, your mail stays in the standard ~/mail folder, can be accessed by your Ruby script, and you can still use Imap and webmail to manage it.
posted by gus at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2006

If you're looking for a GPL webmail application, you might consider using -- or, for that matter, cannibalizing -- IMP. It provides access to IMAP and POP3 accounts.
posted by scoria at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2006

That doesn't sound like web based mail, that sounds like a contact/customer management system. Have you looked for applications in that category over on freshmeat or sourceforge?
posted by phearlez at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2006

Thanks, it sounds like CRM is what I'm looking for, I'll check out to see what I can find...

Anyone have anything they recommend?
posted by hatsix at 11:01 AM on February 7, 2006

I've tweaked a version of SugarCRM for some of my own use. It's open source, written in PHP. Nice piece of software.
posted by hominid211 at 11:14 AM on February 7, 2006

RoundCube is tasty.
And pretty.
posted by disillusioned at 3:29 PM on February 7, 2006

Sorry to hijack, but this is very important.

If you don't trust Microsoft software with your business data, why would you trust a GPL PHP script by some guy you've never heard of? Do you plan to audit the entire source tree? Who are you going to call when it breaks, taking all of your data with it? Fact is, you shouldn't trust any piece of software or hardware with your business data.

Download the CRM of your choice. Create a folder called "CRM Setup" and put the download in there. Install it, taking notes of any special configurations you need or problems you run into, and save the notes in that folder. Back up your initial database, and save that in the folder. Burn the folder to CD, twice. Keep one CD in your box full of CDs (I know you have one). Put the other in a safe deposit box.

Create a backup plan. Daily, weekly, biweekly, it's up to you. How much data can you stand to lose if you need to restore a backup? That's how often you need to make a new one. Store it somewhere physically separate from the computer your CRM program is on. Upload to a secure FTP site, burn it to CD and leave it with a neighbor, or even do what I do and put it on a USB drive that never leaves your pocket except when you're creating a backup. Look at it this way: The building that your CRM computer is in burns to the ground, taking your computer and data with it. If your only backup is on the table next to the computer, you're screwed.

Next, create a disaster recovery plan. Say that building burning scenario happens. How do you run your business? If you've taken my advice so far, you have the software, the installation notes, and a recent backup all stored somewhere safe. Now, what computer do you install it on? If you're hosting it locally, you need to have a spare computer ready to go (maybe with the CRM software already installed on it, so you can just load the backup), or the available funds to buy one. Don't rely on insurance, that can take too much time. If it's on space you're buying from a web host, you need to have the contact info for a company in a different region of the country with an offering that can run your CRM.

The computer hosting the CRM software, the data on it, and the service that connects you to them are not just tools to run your business — they are your business, and they need to be treated as such.

(Sorry, but while I was working at Best Buy, I saw so many people come in with broken computers and get mad when they were told it would take days or weeks to repair. "My business is on that computer! I can't go two weeks without that!" Well, that's why we've been telling people for years to back up their data.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:16 PM on February 7, 2006

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