Get Your Mail Server On by pendragon David Whelan There has never been a better time to have Web-based e-mail. Whether you’re a regular traveler and need access away from home, or you’re a pod-dweller and want to be able to check your correspondence from within your locked-down pod city computer, Web mail gives you access from anywhere. High speed Internet connections (DSL or Cable) now allow you to run your own e-mail server, if you’re willing to give it a shot.
Where to Start
I was amazed at how easy it was to install a simple e-mail application and how many choices there are for someone who wants a free yet still powerful e-mail server. My basic needs were something that would run on Windows, provide Web mail, and offer both POP3 and SMTP service. Everything else was extra. I started off with Mailtraq, which is a fantastic e-mail server and which doesn’t offer Web mail, but when I got started on this project, I didn’t need it. The three free mail boxes were plenty, and I could alias and do many other things with Mailtraq. Especially nice was my ability to white and blacklist incoming domains, and do open relay checks against incoming mail.
A Step Forward, A Step Back
I migrated to 602Software’s 602 Lan Suite 2002 in order to get the Web mail. In doing so, made sure I’d downloaded all of my e-mail into Outlook so I didn’t have to worry about carrying e-mail forward. The 602 Suite is great, but I had to give up most of the anti-spam functionality. In exchange, there are some nice fax server features and other options built into the suite. As far as features, and number of e-mail boxes, this product would be a better solution for that small office needing e-mail than would Mailtraq, if only because you can do so much more with it. I ran into some odd problems, though, with the 602 Suite that might be annoying for someone else – I just ignored them, as they weren’t critical. For example, the anti-spam options in the suite are quite as good as Mailtraq’s, but can’t be configured from the Web administration interface, which was annoying. Also, there was no way to save a sent message – you could only save the basic “sent to” information, not the message itself.
In the Groove with iMail
I’ve been a long time fan of Ipswitch.com and the iMail product. I’d used it when I hosted my Web sites with an ISP and it was their free (to me) e-mail product. Anyone who hasn’t seen or heard of the WS_FTP product has been living in a cave longer than Osama bin Laden! So I was surprised when, in my regular 6 month check on e-mail servers, I found that iMail was offering an “express” version of its servers. It is not anywhere as powerful as the small business and enterprise versions but it definitely does everything I need. It’s easy to configure from the Web, ultra-reliable, and the anti-spam and other features are terrific. My spam flow has slowed tremendously with iMail and it’s nice to be able to access some of the administrative logs remotely to see what’s going on behind the scenes (like when your brother can no longer send you e-mail!).
Get a Mail Server
This may be too much for most people but as children grow up or spouses want to have a separate e-mail account, this is a great way to do it yourself. If you can put in a toilet or sink in your house, you can install and maintain an e-mail server application. It also gives the SOHO or Internet hobbyist a way to have Web-based e-mail without having to succumb to the ever-shrinking e-mail accounts provided by Hotm(icrosoft)ail and Yahoo! Roll your own and enjoy the freedom of having your own e-mail server.