Axigen 8 Web Administration Screen - Free Ubuntu Mail Server

Free E-mail Server on Ubuntu

Note:  this is an old post.  I have since stopped running my own e-mail server and I understand that Axigen’s licensing scheme has changed.

Axigen is my current e-mail server, and has been for a few years now.  I’ve posted about it before.  It’s licensing is a bit hinky but there is a free license that works for a year, that you can then renew for another year ad infinitum.  I recently upgraded my server hardware and I revisited whether there was a better server out there for Ubuntu that:

  • was free
  • could handle multiple domains
  • supported Web mail and IMAP

There are alternatives but none that I liked as much as Axigen.

Postfix and Dovecot

These are the standard mail transport agent (MTA) and IMAP/POP3 server combination for Ubuntu.  I’ve tried (numerous times) to use them and then just install a Web mail system on top of it.  For whatever reason, the configuration and management escapes me.  It reflects the limits of both my understandings of how they work as well as the investment of time I’m willing to make in learning.

There are excellent tutorials if you are interested in using them.  I attempted both the ones on (Postfix, Dovecot) as well as looking at some others (like the Perfect Server).  The Ubuntu maintainers have also created a unified package that installs both systems together.  Even that level of help didn’t get me to where I want to be.

Other Alternatives

What I really needed was an all-in-one environment.  Axigen has a Web-enabled administrative interface as well as Web mail, and I find that gets me around some of the “where is this” that I often run into using Ubuntu.  I want to block SMTP relay, for example.  It is relatively simple to do in a Web display, where I don’t have any idea whether, having done some command line interface work, whether I’ve really done what I wanted.

I looked at Citadel, Surgemail (which I used to run), and Zimbra.  The first two just have clunky interfaces, and I like Axigen’s standard and AJAX-driven Web mail pages.  Surgemail has a domain limit, and I needed more than 1 mail domain.  Zimbra is very nice but I am not running a 64 bit server and their latest version is only available 64 bit.  I looked at applications like ATMail – which is the best looking Web mail I have seen – but it’s not free.

In the end, I downloaded Axigen for my clean install and will continue to use it.  It was easy to set up and configure.  I used the auto-migration feature, so that as my handful of users logged in to the new server, it drew down their old accounts from the old server so that, from their perspective, their messages and folders and contacts were just the same as before.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.


  1. I’m currently a user of Axigen, however I wanted to have a copy of both outgoing and incoming messages the pass through the system. Have you tried doing such? I’m thinking of it as my back up of all messages in my domain. thanks

    1. I haven’t tried that. I’m not sure I really understand what you mean. Perhaps there are filters or rules you can set from within accounts to save copies of sent and received messages.

  2. Hi David, thanks for this write-up.

    I’m comparing mail servers now, for a new VPS box I’m building, and particularly am toying with Axigen and Zimbra.

    The info I’m having a problem pinning down is just how many domains, and for each domain how many users, can be added with the Open Source editions. Do you by any chance know?

    I can see that Axigen has a 5 user limit, although whether that refers to 5 domains I’m not sure. I’m amazed the docs aren’t clearer on this, particularly from Zimbra.

    I’ve got about 10 domains, and regularly use about 20 email users, although I could cut both numbers down if need be. For sure I can’t afford $hundreds per year.

    Anyway, if you have any idea of # users, esp with Zimbra, I’d be grateful to hear, particulkalry from someone who has evaluated both.

    Thank you.

    1. I’ll double check but I think the free user limit on Axigen is 100 with unlimited domains. But you can only have 100 users on all domains. The 5 users are a “special” group who can use a couple of extra “premium” features. I’m running 3 domains and 6 users across them.

      As for Zimbra, I’m pretty sure there are no limits on users; I know there’s no limit on domains. Unlike Axigen, Zimbra’s open source isn’t intended to convert you into a customer at a later date.

      1. Thanks David, I appreciate that, very kind.

        (Your response is much quicker than at the respective forums, BTW!)

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