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Free Mail Servers: A brief review of 4 free mail servers you can install on a VPS
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Free Mail Servers: A brief review of 4 free mail servers you can install on a VPS

jvnadrjvnadr Member
edited February 2015 in Reviews

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.


https://www.zimbra.com/open-source


Axigen

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.

https://www.axigen.com/


Mail-in-a-box

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

https://mailinabox.email/


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.

http://www.xeams.com/


To be continued with



ViMbAdmin

iRedMail

zarafa community

«13

Comments

  • LeeLee Member
    edited February 2015

    iRedMail, works great.

    Please thank me for this review, it took me ages.

  • jvnadrjvnadr Member
    edited February 2015

    W1V_Lee said: Please thank me for this review, it took me ages.

    Hahahaha, thank you, thank you! You have to spend hours and hours just to think a review like that!

    I will post a review also on iredmail. The free version is so limited, that it becomes unusable in some areas of configiration. If you like something simple but more powerful, try ViMbAdmin or mail-in-a-box, both works great

  • Thanks for the awesome post!

    This signature wasted 121 bytes of your data allocation.

    https://nixstats.com/report/56b53d6465689e44598b4567

  • Mail in a box is quite good too, I started using iRedMail a while back and it's just worked, well at least from what I can tell.

  • W1V_Lee said: Mail in a box is quite good too, I started using iRedMail a while back and it's just worked, well at least from what I can tell.

    Try this, I recently installed it (installation is indeed pain in the ass...) but it has the best functionality for a mail server (plus calendar and contacts) and a lot of goodies, the same time it is very light for what it offers (not open source, thought, but free for 100 users)...

    This is Server's panel

    This is web mail (like roundcube)

    Thanked by 2Lee KeyJey
  • Hmm,
    Thanks a lot for the review(s).

    I might be interested if anyone is going to offer a hosted/managed version of some of these? Well, depending on the price anyway.

    URL Shortner: https://ur.lk (Analytics, tracking, QR codes, passwords and whole lot more...)

  • @decay said:
    Hmm,
    Thanks a lot for the review(s).

    I might be interested if anyone is going to offer a hosted/managed version of some of these? Well, depending on the price anyway.

    @Jar may have something for you. :-)

    Thanked by 1jar
  • @Jar, let me know what you got :D

    URL Shortner: https://ur.lk (Analytics, tracking, QR codes, passwords and whole lot more...)

  • Actually i just realised, i have a MXROUTE account with @Jar, but that uses like vesta CP or something similar, so very minimal things. Works well though (i havent had a chance to properly use it yet), but would very much like to test out a more advanced system if available. I do have a whole bunch of domains that i might want to move out of google apps, now that you cant add anymore domains on google app grandfather accounts.

    Thanked by 1jar

    URL Shortner: https://ur.lk (Analytics, tracking, QR codes, passwords and whole lot more...)

  • @decay said:
    Actually i just realised, i have a MXROUTE account with Jar, but that uses like vesta CP or something similar, so very minimal things. Works well though (i havent had a chance to properly use it yet), but would very much like to test out a more advanced system if available. I do have a whole bunch of domains that i might want to move out of google apps, now that you cant add anymore domains on google app grandfather accounts.

    I can do a hosted Mail-in-a-box for you from €10/year? send a PM could work out further discounts

    Different.

  • TinyTunnel_Tom said: I can do a hosted Mail-in-a-box for you from €10/year? send a PM could work out further discounts

    I would advise to better use ViMbAdmin for preconfigured boxes for non-in-deepth-tehcs. It is IMHO more stable, more advanced but easy to maintain and it is also gpl.

  • decay said: more advanced system if available

    Try Axigen. If you want help when installing it, drop me a pm with the questions. It is much more advanced, can import google calendar/contacts, have full functionality and special interface for mobile devices (but free version is limited to 100 users).

  • good review..

  • Mailenable? Smartermail? Atmail?
    But i'm currently running a zimbra mail server and quite happy

  • While a Control Panel/Automated Solution is fine, there's always setting up postfix/exim, dovecot/other and spamassassin manually.... never mind, too much work. do'h

  • Can any of these send spoofed mail?

  • pylodepylode Member
    edited February 2015

    @tr1cky said:
    Can any of these send spoofed mail?

    Just change the "From:" address?

  • Jazzy8999 said: Mailenable? Smartermail? Atmail?

    All are paid solutions, first 2 have free versions but they are extremely limited. Plus, first two are for windows servers, so, even if you chose the limited free servers you have to pay for the OS...

  • leapswitchleapswitch Member, Provider

    @jvnadr said:
    All are paid solutions, first 2 have free versions but they are extremely limited. Plus, first two are for windows servers, so, even if you chose the limited free servers you have to pay for the OS...

    SmarterMail free version is free upto 10 users but does not limit any functionality. If you can excuse it for requiring Windows, it is the best mail server I have used (and we offer it as our enterprise email platform)

    Leapswitch Networks - Affordable Managed and UnManaged VPS
    Pune/Mumbai, India - Asheville, USA - Lisbon, Portugal - Kiev, Ukraine - Barcelona, Spain - Frankfurt, Germany

  • leapswitch said: upto 10 users

    In fact, 10 mailboxes. This is a serious limit in functionality. Ant there are windows, that requires extra $ per month for the server. Besides that, it is indeed a very good mail server although a bit heavy for my taste (I installed once for a couple of days in my local machine to see what is it about, after a friend's suggestions. he said to me, like you, that is the best mail platform he has been using)

  • leapswitchleapswitch Member, Provider

    @jvnadr said:
    In fact, 10 mailboxes. This is a serious limit in functionality. Ant there are windows, that requires extra $ per month for the server. Besides that, it is indeed a very good mail server although a bit heavy for my taste (I installed once for a couple of days in my local machine to see what is it about, after a friend's suggestions. he said to me, like you, that is the best mail platform he has been using)

    It is a limitation for number of users, not the actual functionality. As a SmarterTools partner, we are allowed to provide a 250 user SmarterMail license for free with our Windows VPS. Yes, it is heavier than a Linux based solution like iRedMail/Postfix etc, but it is not competing in that market. It has similar functionality to Zimbra/MS Exchange and compared to them, the resource usage is very low. For example, we are running over 2000 email accounts on an E3 - 8GB RAM , with hardly 20% CPU and 1.5GB RAM used.

    Leapswitch Networks - Affordable Managed and UnManaged VPS
    Pune/Mumbai, India - Asheville, USA - Lisbon, Portugal - Kiev, Ukraine - Barcelona, Spain - Frankfurt, Germany

  • @jvnadr

    Thanks for wring this review. Looking forward seeming more options :)

    @leapswitch

    I have used SmarterMail before and it's pretty awesome. I wish they had a solution for Linux/Unix. I don't want to run (and pat for OS license) for a small mail server for a few domains.

    I think Zimbra is probably the best option out there but due to its huge resource requirement, Its out of options for me. I will look into other options mentioned here. Just need a small server for like 10 domains for 3/4 email account per domain.

  • @Umair If you have experience in administrating server use axigen. If you are not so, use mailinabox or ViMbAdmin

  • Yes for 2 of my clients, heavy mail users, I am using smartermail from last 2 years and didn't face any issue.. really happy with it.

  • @jvnadr said:
    Umair If you have experience in administrating server use axigen. If you are not so, use mailinabox or ViMbAdmin

    I do have experience with server management.
    Their Mobile sync addon is kinda priced a bit too much. (78.00 EUR for 5 Users). I don't need Outlook Connector but would really prefer to have the ability to use emails on mobile. Also their AntiSpam/AntiVirus addon is 163.45 EUR ... (A lil too much)

    Gonna give them a try. Let's see how that goes.

  • So, in case that exchange sync or outlook connector is needed, what's the most easy and / or reliable option for 50 or 100 users ?

    I've heard that Zentyal is also a nice commercial replazement, provably less resources eaten than zimbra.

    And about pricing ?

    What are your experiences in this area?

    Thanked by 1Umair
  • @KeyJey said:
    So, in case that exchange sync or outlook connector is needed, what's the most easy and / or reliable option for 50 or 100 users ?

    I've heard that Zentyal is also a nice commercial replazement, provably less resources eaten than zimbra.

    And about pricing ?

    What are your experiences in this area?

    I have not heard of them before. And they don't seem to have any pricing info on their site.
    If you do get any pricing info, please do let us know :)

  • Thanks for the review.

    According to my experience, Zimbra is more or less useful choice out of them all, if we are talking about groupware-like applications.

    I am maintaining Zarafa installation. A terrible resource gobbler, especially when you hit several dozens thousands emails in its database. It's just unable to handle large mailing lists smoothly (things that CommuniGate et al. does easily), I suppose due to bad architecture.

    Monitor your network assets with IPHost (contact me to obtain a discount code)
  • @decay said:
    Actually i just realised, i have a MXROUTE account with Jar, but that uses like vesta CP or something similar, so very minimal things. Works well though (i havent had a chance to properly use it yet), but would very much like to test out a more advanced system if available. I do have a whole bunch of domains that i might want to move out of google apps, now that you cant add anymore domains on google app grandfather accounts.

    I have a Zimbra based service. All plans have One domain and unlimited email box. disc space options are 10 to 100 GB. PM me for details. I also offer zimbra on dedicated VM with full admin control/unlimited domains/unlimited mailbox/dedicated IP.

  • @mashokk369 said:

    That sounds interesting. I will be sending u pm shortly.

    PS your site (in sigi) seems to be offline or having issue.

    Error 522 Ray ID: 1bdfd3fceed61025 Connection timed out

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