Free Mail Servers: A brief review of 4 free mail servers you can install on a VPS
I noticed that a lot of people are asking about free solutions for hosting their own mail servers. A simple approach would be a web control panel like virtualmin, vestacp, ispconfig, kloxo-mr or sentora.
But what when you want only a mail server with extended functionalities about mails, calendars and contacts, or an alternative of MS Exchange mainly for messaging?
In this review, I will present some free solutions.
Zimbra Open Source edition
Zimbra is an excellent replacement software for Gmail. If offers not only a complete mail solution, but handling and editing documents, give collaboration abilities between a group of co-workers etc. But this costs. Not only money (if you don’t chose the free open source edition) but in hardware specs.
It cannot be installed in anything less than 2GB ram and a powerful cpu, so, you need a high end VPS or Dedi to run it properly. For production environment, anything lower than 3GB memory and access at least to 2 cores, will lead the service to be extremely slow or even crash!
As of interface, there are everything there. But it is not a simple interface to handle, it is more than a complete solution like MS Exchange than a mail web panel.
Installation is not hard to complete. Download the file, untar it and run the installer. Will handle postfix, mysql web server installation and will ask you several questions about the configuration.
There is a very good documentation in the website and an active community, so you probably won’t have any problems completing the installation.
• Pros: A complete solution for an on-line office / mail suite. Well documented. Active community willing to help you.
• Cons: Complicated piece of software. Veeeery hungry to resources, especially for production environments. There are to much there, when you only want a mail server.
Installation is… pain in the ass! At least, for me in Ubuntu boxes. There is no clear installation download for wget or any details about distro adding, so, I had to start downloading in my pc, find the real download address and then download a ".deb.run" file in my vps. At last, run it with .sh .
If you don’t install it after a minimal linux image fresh installation, then, you will encounter a lot of conflicts. Very buggy installation IMO, designed maybe more for GUI installation…
It is frustrating that a paid mail server (they have a free license for 100 users and anything after that gives a trial of a month and then a paid subscription) has such a buggy installation procedure (at least, for ubuntu, didn’t test centos). You even have to start manual the service…
If you manage to install it, then, this is one of the best mail servers there is out there. The free version for 100 users (more than enough for most of us) has tons of options to configure, but it is easy for a quick config to all the necessary parameters.
To download the server, you first have to give your details to Axigen site and they will send you to your email the key for the free license that you have to upload to the mail panel.
There is no roundcube or another free web mail access but an integrated webmail panel that is actually extremely good, both in functionality and interface.
You access the webmail simply via the domain pointed to the ip, and the mail server panel via port :9000.
I installed it on a 512MB ram box and in idle state (one domain and email configured and no users logged in but the admin) it occupied 110MB RAM and 0.00 server load.
The free version is valid for one year and then you simply renew the free license via the panel. In the free version, there is clamav / smapassassign functions and in paid versions there are also a lot of options for enterprise antivirus.
There are .deb. and .rpm versions, along with windows versions, freebsd and solaris.
• Pros: Extremely large options to configure to your needs, clear and nice interface for both admin and webmail panels, not recourse – hungry for basic functionality. Webmail has normal and Ajax interface that any user can chose in the login screen!
• Cons: Installation can be pain in the ass. Free version is valid only for 100 users / accounts. Free version need renewal every year. Not simple, not for noobies.
Good piece of software, but have some limitations or weirdness in functionality. It need an over 768MB ram box, as creator says, but you can install in any box can handle clamav+spamassasign. That means that it can easily be installed in a 512MB ram box, with a little hacking. After you clone via git the installation files, setup.sh has to be edited lowering the limits of the minimum requirements. Then, you run the main installer file and… voila!
Mail-in-a-box has to be installed in a clean machine and take over all dns requirements for your mail server. This is good and bad. It simplifies the installations, but it is difficult to make custom modifications (e.g. different web server to another box than mail server, subdomains etc.).
Web administrator has some basic functionality, without many customize options.
This software uses a combination of apache+nginx, and roundcube as webmail, no MySQL but sql-lite. Installation is automatically and for all the elements (web server, postfix, sql-lite, php etc.).
A plus is the use of owncloud for calendar + contacts that are working not in a subdomain (e.g. webmail.example.com) but in a folder (www.example.com/mail).
It is not resources – hungry, except from spamassasing / clamav that are (but this is not a mail panel’s issue).
Last, but not least: There are no limitations about users / domains, so, it is indeed completely free.
• Pros: All-in-an-installation solution, no need extensive knowledge to install / use it, no resources hungry, completely free.
• Cons: Works only on Ubuntu 14 64bit, use its own view on apache/dns configuration, basic functionality
Xeams mail server
Xeams is a complete mail server that can be installed not only to any linux flavor, but also in Windows, Solaris, even a Mac! It automatically install SMTP, POP3, and IMAP, spam filtering,
Can be used as full mail server, spam firewall (processes junk emails and forwards good messages to another email server, such as Microsoft Exchange, Sendmail or Novel Groupwise, as said in site) and a hybrid mode.
It is free for any use, extremely easy to install and easy enough to configure for basic functionality, having lot of options for in-deep configuration.
It is lightweight and I installed it without any problem in a 512MB ram box. It does not come with roundcube or any other web interface, but you can handle mails in the control panel itself. Admins can create simple users that are having access only to their mail folders. Of course, as an IMAP server, you can install roundcube, horde or any web interface you want, among with an sql server that it is needed for roundcube to work.
Installation is easy. You simply download the installer, untar it and run install.sh . It took 5 seconds (!) to install and then, you will access the admin interface thru your ip in port :5272. Another 10 seconds for configuration and your mail server is ready! So simple.
Last, an option that I have not seen in any free mail server: Xeams can route incoming messages to multiple servers!
• Pros: Very easy and quick installation, integrated spam filtering, a lot of configuration options, lightweight, can be installed to Windows and Mac, free professional support for the first 30 days, plenty of reports (daily, weekly, monthly)
• Cons: No automatic roundcube web interface, weird interface for non-experienced users.
To be continued with