Best mail server software

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Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:12 am

Hi Guys,

I am looking to move my domain's e-mail from Google Apps, to a small server running at my home office. I started looking at Exchange 2013 (I have a license), yet it seems like overkill for 5 users.

My requirements:

- 5-10 users
- IMAP support
- Windows based
- Webmail support

As for hardware to run it, I have a few choices:

- run it directly on my 2012 R2 server (i7-3770S-16GB ram)
- run it as VM on above server (Hyper-V role already installed)
- run it on dedicated machine (I have a spare C2D-e6600 w/4GB, 3TB of disks, or I have a current MB that I can purchase a current gen i5)

Also, on a side note, do I need to purchase certs, or will a self-signed suffice so I can run SSL for IMAP?
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:34 am

On the Microsoft side of things, you're shafted now.

Microsoft killed SBS to push people towards their cloud-based Office365. It's pretty good but it's still cloud and removes a lot of the control and flexibility of an on-premise hosted solution. Among most SMB's that news went down like a lead balloon.

If you don't mind picking up old software, I can highly recommend SBS 2013 but be warned that it'll EOL in a few years, unless the whole "cloud-crazy" bubble bursts.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:16 am

In the past I've setup Merak Mail Server, which is now IceWarp. In my experience it was a very good system for smaller operations, and pricing was very reasonable, I believe we paid something around $1000 for *500* users. Self-signed certificates are fine if you are ok with the reduced security of them.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:33 am

I would consider O365 again especially if its only for 5 users. You will save yourself a ton of headache and time from install\setup\maintenance\ssl cert, etc. O365 can be had for $4/user a month if I recall. We have several clients on it, including ourselves who migrated from our own internal Exchange server, and its been great. We've never had email downtime (a little sharepoint downtime but hardly).
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:24 am

1) Regarding the software:

a) I've read good stuff about Atmail but I haven't used them personally.

b) Rent some web/email space from a good known provider and call it a day. This is the option that I would choose.

c) Rent a small VM and run CPanel on it. It integrates the Roundcube webmail client and you can tweak... to much stuff. CPanel's used by webhosting companies (including yours truly at my afternoon gig). However, this may be overkill.

2) Regarding the SSL certificate: a self-signed one is technically sufficient but dangerous as it allows for man-in-the-middle attacks. And all client programs and browsers will complain about it. Seeing as a proper SSL certificate can be obtained for as low as $25/year, it's a no-brainer.

Do consider the following before you decide to host e-mail yourself: you will be in support hell. Trust me. There is almost nothing so difficult to support in this world like e-mail. You will spend a lot of your time fighting spam, which will be your #1 headache, getting complaints about "we don't get messages from these guys" (because their IP is an RBL, or their DNS is misconfigured, or the person made a typo), getting complaints about "those guys don't get our e-mails" (because your user made a typo, because you are in an RBL, because their spam filtering software is way too aggressive), getting complaints about how there's something wrong with the server every time that one of your users doesn't have an internet connection. You only have to handle 5 accounts, which is quite different from the ~1500 I have to deal with, but still.

You will also need a static IP and an rDNS entry, and preferably set up SPF records for your MX entries.

Yes, I do this kind of thing for a living and I would just rent web/e-mail hosting from somewhere and call it a day.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:32 am

I'll throw in on recommending Office 365. If you have Outlook 2010 or newer (2007 SP2 used to be supported, not sure if it still is or not) it's hard to recommend anything else. The time you save patching, updating, maintaining, etc makes up for the 4 dollar a user a month subscription charge.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:47 am

Thanks for the suggestions.

I forgot to mention that the users are my family, wife, kids and myself. My domain is hosted at Google for free right now, and yes its cool, but I have privacy concerns. Which is why I wanted it in-house, where I can encrypt it, etc..

Prior to being at Google, I had a server running Novell Groupwise (on Netware!), I was the IT director at the leading AntiSpam/AV vendor for Groupwise, so it made sense at the time.

I'm looking at O365, 20$ or so a month isn't bad, looks like you get a lot for that.

I'm self-employed, IT consultant, so yeah, less time managing this stuff is OK with me.

Is MS any better than Google in regards to being hacked, sniffed and/molested by the NSA.. ie: I'd love a service hosted up here in Canada.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:50 am

N'thing the Office 365 suggestion. If this is email a business depends on, you'll find out real fast how time consuming and obnoxious it is to manage email deliverability and spam.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:23 pm

Even (especially) for just family I wouldn't bother with being an email admin; as others have pointed out, it's a giant pain in the butt, especially since your privacy gain will be minimal unless your family and the people they correspond with all use PGP/GPG to encrypt their emails. I mean, email is usually sent in the clear between the various nodes on its way, and you have no control over what the people on the other end do with it, or the nodes it passes through. I promise you that the NSA can get you if they want you.

tl;dr: if privacy is your concern, that horse has left the barn and is in the next county. Don't give yourself a headache over it.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:37 pm

bthylafh wrote:I mean, email is usually sent in the clear between the various nodes on its way

Not entirely accurate. Most servers now are TLS-enabled.
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:57 pm

Looks like I will be going to O365, now the important question: how can I move all my mail from gmail?

Right now my domain's mx record points to google, I will of course be switching this so it points to MS.. do I go all old school and use outlook to create a bunch of .pst files, then once new service is set up, do an import, then sync IMAP?

I have about 600mb of mail, not a lot at all.. my wife has maybe half that.. just looking at best way.

thanks again for all your suggestions!
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Re: Best mail server software

Postposted on Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:09 pm

There is a fixed amount of intelligence on the planet, and the population keeps growing :(
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