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Mail Server? Exchanger Server?

Posted on 2006-11-08
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Ok, here is the story.  We need to get an exchange server.  In our network there was a box functioning as a "mail server" from what I know.  I asked the tech guy what the mail server was and he sent this reply:
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For your understanding - the mail server server has the dual role of providing DNS (Domain Name Service). The main applications are:

Sendmail - the server application that actually handles the inbound and outbound mail transactions. It is the standard mail server used on the internet.

MailScanner - a script that works with sendmail to handle spam and virus scanning.

Clam - the antivirus application that scans all inbound/outbound e-mail for viruses or Windows threats.

Imap allows LAN users to fetch their mail off of the server.

Bind handles DNS service - also the standard.

All these applications are GNU liscensed - which means they are free to use and upgrade.
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Is what he is saying correct?  Also, what would be the purpose of getting an exchange server?  Isn't that simalar to the mail server we currently have setup here.  The mail server is on a RedHat Linux box.
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Question by:al4629740
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by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 200 total points
ID: 17903587
Hi al4629740,
> Sendmail - the server application that actually handles the inbound
> and outbound mail transactions. It is the standard mail server used on
> the internet.

This is a common mail server, but I wouldn't call it STANDARD.  Sendmail is widely considered to be the swiss cheese of mail servers with vulnerabilities galore.  Most people I hear today - if you go with a Linux mail server, seem to be suggesting PostFix instead.

> MailScanner - a script that works with sendmail to handle spam and
> virus scanning.

Never heard of it - but that doesn't mean he's wrong.  Most people seem to recommend SpamAssassin though.


> Clam - the antivirus application that scans all inbound/outbound e-mail
> for viruses or Windows threats.

Clam is an antivirus scanner that runs on linux.
 
> Imap allows LAN users to fetch their mail off of the server.

IMAP and POP3 are the two standards for e-mail access - when not running Windows.  IMAP allows your e-mail to remain on the server but appear in your Inbox.  Though a standard, in my experience, it's rarely used.

> Bind handles DNS service - also the standard.

This is probably the most accurate statement, in my opinion, of them all.  All the other statements are true, depending on the person's experience and knowledge.

> All these applications are GNU liscensed - which means they are free
> to use and upgrade.

This too.  GNU applications are free to use.  Problem is, there is no formal support - or if there is, it's PAID support.  This isn't to say Microsoft support would be free, but there's generally a larger support base and a CLEAR place to go for assistance.  Since these programs are all running on a Red Hat box, you can probably get support from them (negating what I said earlier in the paragraph).


Cheers!
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 17903644
As for Exchange, Exchange is a groupware solution with a variety of features not available through sendmail and the other programs.  Some argue that because it's not free, it costs more... that's true only in as much as you have people on staff who know how to administer a linux system.  If you don't, you will probably spend more on consultants and tech support.

Exchange provides for a shared calendar system, shared contacts, centralized mail store for easy backup of all the above, a webmail client that, in my opinion, is second to none, and some additional features and abilities that most mail servers don't offer.

If your business is less than 50-60 people, with slow to moderate growth, you might want to consider purchasing/using Small Business Server 2003 - it's MUCH less expensive than buying Windows Server and Exchange separate and it also provides for copies of Outlook to all licensed clients.  It's also got a heavily Wizard driven interface (which really MUST be used) to manage it, unlike standard copies of Exchange/Windows. The software for 5 users is about $500-650.  The client licenses cost about $90 each (+/- 10%).  SBS provides for a MAXIMUM of 75 users.  Once you near or hit that limit, you can buy the Transition pack that will remove the limitations.

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rid earned 300 total points
ID: 17905344
You must define your needs to be able to make an educated decision.

There are several mail server programs available. Some are free of charge (typically GNU licensed or other flavour of "open source"), others come at a cost. The setup you need is depending on what you know about managing a mail system, the number of users involved and their level of understanding, hardware that is or can be made available etc...

If you only use the basic e-mail functions, I see NO need to go for Exchange. It is expensive, it is quite demanding in the hardware department and, contrary to common belief, it is not maintenance-free, nor is it quite so easy to set up as the vendors may want you to believe, what with all the wizards and such. ALL mail server programs require basic understanding of how they work and how e-mail works in general.

Mercury (www.pmail.com) is a free, windows-based mail server.

Imail (www.ipswitch.com) is a competent alternative to Exchange - for the e-mail part.

If you can use Linux as the server O/S, I'd recommend Postfix, but there are others, several others.

IMAP and POP3 are standard e-mail protocols for the client side (receiving), even for windows-based mail clients. The proprietary Exchange protocol is non-standard and works only with Outlook and Exchange, AFAIK.
/RID
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