Soon after I reserved my domain name back in the 1990s, I wanted to run my own e-mail server. My first ISP offered Ipswitch’s iMail which was fine but I wanted to know more about the back end. But I always wanted a personal copy, so Microsoft Exchange and most other e-mail servers were beyond my budget. I’ve now migrated over to Axigen, a Linux-based e-mail server that has a free basic version. My former e-mail server, Surgemail, was fine but it felt dated and although they’ve got a new version under development, I thought I’d look for a new system! I stumbled upon Axigen, developed by a Romanian company for Linux, and it has all the bells and whistles I could want. If you have a small business and are interested in your own internal e-mail server, put Axigen on your list.
I have a couple of requirements for any e-mail server I run. First, it’s got to be dead easy to install, secure, and use. I know that there are free e-mail servers, especially in the Linux/Unix world, but I like graphic user interfaces and well documented/described applications. I started with a Windows machine running Mailtraq’s free server. It’s easy to manage but they eventually phased out Web mail from their free version and added a marketing tag line to all e-mails. The administrative side was pretty easy to configure.
602Software‘s LAN Suite came next and it was another reliable server. But when it didn’t work, it was hard for me to figure out why. It also was packed full of other features that I didn’t need – fax servers, etc. – that felt more cumbersome than useful. I liked the application, now known as the Groupware server, but they decided to eliminate the free version and that was one of my basic requirements. So it was time to look for something new!
Next came Surgemail from NetWinsite. It had a number of positive attributes, one being that it ran on Windows and the other that Web mail was part and parcel of the installation. It doesn’t have the polished interface of Mailtraq and, although it comes with some themes/skins, it has a very weak presentation. It is not as easy to configure although the information is all there somewhere. All configuration is done on the Web, so you have different URLs for your Web mail, domain management, and server management.
Surgemail had another positive which was that it works on both Windows and Linux. As I brought Linux up and wanted to cut back on my Microsoft reliance, I was able to move my Surgemail installation over and there was no learning curve.
I started to use Evolution for my local e-mail client, turning on IMAP support to connect to my numerous e-mail accounts. This had the added benefit that, when I wanted to migrate off Surgemail, I was able to copy all of my e-mail from that account to my local client. When I brought up the new server, I copied it back up and didn’t have to worry about file conversions, etc.
Axigen is the most polished e-mail server I’ve used. The interface is clear and the configuration is well explained and has a lot of features. It is easy to toggle services (POP3, SMTP, IMAP) on or off and the Web administration pages provide real-tiime information on things like whether your Spamassassin install is active. I was able to install and create my e-mail domain in about an hour. The initial configuration is from the command line and I found that it created some settings that blocked me from getting to the Internet. These included giving a full domain name, adding my e-mail server aliases (mail.ofaolain.com), and fooling about with the relay and authentication settings.
If you have your own e-mail server – and I’m sure you all do! – the issue of open relays is a big one. When you install your e-mail server, you want to make sure that it isn’t used by spammers or other unauthorized users to send messages as if they were coming from your site. Axigen has the clearest interface for setting this up and I wasn’t concerned that I’d accidentally created an open relay. The free support in Linux for Spamassassin and AVG is extended in Axigen, making it more functional for me than Surgemail had been for filtering and controlling incoming messages.
It’s early days yet but I am really pleased with Axigen’s look and feel, the features it offers and the ease of use. If I was running a small law firm, I would definitely consider it (and its Outlook Connector!) as my firm e-mail server. The Office Edition is available for download and supports 5 e-mail boxes. For $355 and a perpetual license, you can get the Business Edition which supports 25 mailboxes.