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How to Setup a Mail Server on Windows 2003 Box

Posted on 2006-07-06
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Last Modified: 2013-11-30
Hello Everyone,

I have a box with Windows 2003 Enterprise Server on it. I have a domain name say example.com....Rather than paying money to godaddy.com or paying huge bucks to setup Microsoft Exchange Server...How can I setup a mail server for my domain...For example if someone sends an email to harsimrat@example.com....it works for sending emails and recieving mails....

How can I do that...

Step by Step instructions, highly appreciated....

Thanks,
Harsimrat
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Question by:hthukral
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Lee W, MVP earned 125 total points
ID: 17052369
You don't want to spend money on Exchange, but you spend money on the Enterprise edition of Windows Server 2003?  Seems a bit silly to me.  If your a small company, you should probably have bought Small Business Server, which includes Exchange Server, and would have cost you LESS than your 2003 Enterprise license.

Now that you've over spent on something you almost certainly don't need, you can try to use the pathetically basic POP3/SMTP services included with Windows Server 2003.
http://www.windowsnetworking.com/articles_tutorials/Windows_POP3_Service.html
http://www.ilopia.com/Articles/WindowsServer2003/EmailServer.aspx

Or you can do a google search for windows mail server -exchange and try out one the dozens that come up.  But how you set those up is going to be directly related to which one you chose - at which time, it's time to read the manual.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 17052383
Don't forget, you'll need control over DNS and have to setup an MX record for your mail server.
http://www.han.com/motor/dns.html
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by:jhance
ID: 17052390
While setting up a mail server using W2K3 Server is not overly difficult, setting one up that is secure against abuse is complex enough that you should NOT do it yourself unless you know what you are doing.

I recommend that you NOT do this since you don't even know how to start, much less do it right.  I also recommend that other experts NOT spoon-feed you how to do it since a large part of the SPAM problem is due to misconfigured email servers, like the one you will likely end up with, being abused by SPAMMERS to send their crap out.

Spend some time understanding how this entire scenario works and learn how to do it right.  If you're not willing or able to do that, hire it out to GoDaddy.com or another provider.
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Author Comment

by:hthukral
ID: 17052464
Hello leew,

OK as I stand now I bought W2K3 already, so I have no other choice as for now.....

I read throught those tutorials pretty state forward.....If I follow the way on those tutorials and jhance said can be abused my Spammers, I dont want to be on the blacklist.....

So, whats the best way to secure it.....I'm willing to increase the points of this post by 125.....

Thanks,
Harsimrat
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by:juandelacruz2001
ID: 17052472
I second...
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 17052556
Actually, it's not too late - go buy Small Business Server - you can incorporate it into your domain and run Exchange.

Basically, you need to review how to prevent whatever mail server you want to use from being an open relay.  

I don't quite agree with jhance on his logic.  BUT, on the overall point, I do.  Put simply, unless you are going to get Exchange, don't do it.  Consider this:

1.  IF you don't know what you are doing, you could end up getting your domain blacklisted.
2.  If you don't know what you are doing, you could have problems maintaining your system.  From my experience, e-mail has become about as important as phone service to many businesses.  If you try handling your own email and the server goes down, the internet connection goes down, or your DNS goes down, so does your mail - then you have less than happy people in the business.  ISPs that host your email typically have multiple internet connections, UPSs and backup generators that ensure your mail services are up 99.9%+ of the time.  As well as SPAM filtering and Virus Filtering at the server level.
3.  Why then use exchange (#2 applies to exchange as well).  Several reasons - Exchange holds all email - so it's easy to backup email.  Exchange offers calendaring, tasks, and contacts, that can all be integrated for use with other and add value to running your own mail server.  Exchange offers what most people will probably describe as the BEST webmail client available.  And if you used the SBS version of Exchange, it's very easy to configure and run - it's virtually all wizard based.
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by:Rob Williams
ID: 17052565
Although not cheap, much less than Exchange is MDaemon software:
http://www.altn.com/
I have client who has been very pleased with it for 5 years now, as their mail server. Easy to use, and good support, but due to the many integration features of Exchange, even this client is in the process of switching to Small Business Server as suggested by leew. It is worth having a look at though.
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by:jhance
ID: 17052620
I don't understand the push toward using MS Exchange here.  W2K3 has very fine SMTP and POP3 servers in-the-box and there is no need for the expense and significant overhead of Exchange for a small installation.

Regardless, however, knowing little to nothing about either one is a recipie for disaster!!
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by:jhance
ID: 17052646
BTW, I have a client that I support that made the mistake of purchasing MDaemon.  I do NOT recommend it.  The product is fair at best but their support is non-existent!  Their pay-through-the-nose-per-incident is bad enough and they force you into that by ignoring the "free" email support system.  Even when you pay (up front) the answer is always "oh, you need to upgrade".

NOT RECOMMENDED!!
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Author Comment

by:hthukral
ID: 17052657
Lets put this way, for now If I'm using W2K3, can someone suggest best pratices to secure it...from being backlisted....there will be only 5 accounts to start with...and 700$ investment is large....for startups...............

Thanks,
Harsimrat
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by:Rob Williams
ID: 17052712
This client has had great success with MDaemon and support. Mind you each year they have purchased the upgrade, regardless of whether required. As part of their contract, they have built-in virus and spam protection that also works very well. I personally have had little to do with it, but the company using it is actually a software support company themselves, and have bragged about how great product support has been for MDaemon and the add-ons they have purchased. As I mentioned though, although completely happy with it, they are opting for Exchange with integration features for PDA devices.
SBS if interested in Exchange is a great value, especially when you consider CAL's.
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by:jhance
ID: 17052755
I'm afraid you're not getting the message.  It's NOT that simple.  If it were, EVERYONE's mail server would be secure.  It's a BIG problem and only getting worse.

Options:

1) Hire a qualified and experienced consultant to set it up and maintain it for you.  If the consultant has an MSCE certificate, he probably knows enough to do it right.

2) Use an outside service.  This is probably the cheapest and most reliable in the long run.  Running your own mail server is anything but free.  Perhaps the direct costs appear low but that is an illusion.

3) Take the time to lean about email servers and the way email works and then learn how to configure Windows 2003's SMTP and POP servers.  Then you can probably start doing this yourself.


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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 17052811
hthukral,

If your business is going to make use of computers, then you need to hire a consultant.  You've already overspent on an Enterprise license for 2003 server and who knows what else your overspending on.  Poor IT decisions now can cost you dearly later.  And YOU running your own mail server does not seem like a good idea based on your decisions in this matter so far - I'm sure you are a valuable asset to the business in general, but trying to set things up yourself without expert computer and networking help would be like me trying to rebuild my own car engine with just tips from a few mechanics on web sites just to save some money.  Maybe I get lucky and do it, but the time I waste, the materials I needlessly buy or buy but only expect to use once, and the chances of worsening the problem are all excellent reasons to bring it to a mechanic.

To put it another way, an Attorney is not going to make the best possible computer decisions and a Computer Consultant is not going to give the best legal advice.  And while you did come ask computer experts - to some extent - by asking this question, the experts are now advising you and you are not taking their advice.

If the server is new and purchased from Dell, you typically have 30 days to return it - I'd call and try.

If you insist on pursuing this further, despite the numerous pitfalls, then I've already told you, you need to protect your SMTP server from being an Open Relay.
More information can be found here:
http://searchwindowssecurity.techtarget.com/tip/1,289483,sid45_gci1189734,00.html?bucket=ETA
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Author Comment

by:hthukral
ID: 17052841
Thanks guys,

Harsimrat
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by:jhance
ID: 17054707
Glad to be of [no] help...
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Author Comment

by:hthukral
ID: 17054897
Hello jhance,

Sorry, I didn't get that, I never gave you points or you guys giving advises and think of [no] help...

If you can please explain...

Thanks,
Harsimrat
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by:jhance
ID: 17055464
It's not about the points.  I have many, don't really need any at all.  What I and some of the other experts were trying to do is to save you a lot of grief.  Running a mail server is serious business these days and doing it poorly causes problems for you as well as for others.  As someone who is responsible for several email servers, I can say that at least 50%, perhaps more, of the SPAM my servers receive comes via misconfigured email servers that permit spammers to hijack their services.  If configuring and maintaining a mail server was as simple as following a couple of links on Experts Exchange, then I suppose that everyone who runs a mail server would be doing it well.  As it is, it's not so simple...

I really hope you'll take the advice to get experienced help or outsource your email services.
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Author Comment

by:hthukral
ID: 17055470
Thats what I have done for now, until I have better resources to buy MS Exchange...I'm going with one of the Hosted Exchange providers...I guess for now that solution is cheaper....

I really appreciate for your guys advice, I guess saved me from getting my domain blacklisted....
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