MailMax -- A multihoming POP3/SMTP mail server for Windows 95/98/NT

MailMax -- A multihoming POP3/SMTP mail server for Windows 95/98/NT

June 5, 2002

With an easy-to-use administrative graphical interface, high-performance mail threading, an impressive array of anti-spam tools, and advanced multihoming capabilities, MailMax is an ideal mail server for the mid-sized company or ISP that wants to run many different domains off of one IP address.

MailMax has several administrative tools that separate it from other mail servers. Wizards automate many aspects of routine system administration; for instance, a Domain Wizard creates new domains and a Post Group Wizard sends administrative messages to a group of users. An easy-to-use graphical tool lets you add and delete users while controlling all aspects of their usage, including the total disk space a user can claim. MailMax Remote allows administration from anywhere on the network (or from home if you want), using Active Server Pages run via the Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) Web server.

System administrators can designate other users as Domain Owners, who are delegated administration of their own domains (adding and deleting users, et al). MailMax allows you to limit the power of Domain Owners by limiting the number of mail accounts they can create. All of the administration capabilities include the ability to connect remotely via an event log.

Superior performance is achieved via multithreaded queues of outgoing mail messages. When a message is sent from a client to the server for delivery to the outside world, that message is sent out immediately. In the case where multiple messages are delivered, they'll be sent out simultaneously, each in its own thread. If a connection with a particular thread can't be made, it won't affect the rest of the outgoing messages.

MailMax offers a variety of tools designed to thwart spammers. Some bulk e-mailers have been rather unscrupulous about forcing their messages through innocent mail servers. MailMax protects against this by checking the identity of a user wishing to route mail through your server against the user database to make sure that the user is an authentic user. MailMax's blind caching feature filters mail sent to unknown users on your system to a single account, which can then be analyzed to see if a spammer is blindly sending mail to your system. If you identify a domain as generating way too much spam mail (to the great annoyance of your users), you can block the entire domain from sending any mail to your users. In addition, you can block mail from individual addresses or sites.

Multihoming is a term used more often in the Web server world than in the mail server world, but the idea remains the same -- the ability to handle multiple domains using a single IP address. For ISPs, it means that users can have their own custom mail domains without using precious IP addresses to do so. There's no limit to the number of domains possible with MailMax; several users report having more than 100 domains share a single IP address.

There are some limitations to MailMax that might be noticeable in an enterprise environment. There's no support for LDAP, a feature that would be useful if MailMax needed to be implemented on an enterprise level, and there's no support for IMAP4, an increasingly important tool for supporting traveling users who need to store their messages for periods of time on the remote mail server. Finally, MailMax is heavily intertwined with Windows NT, and the lack of a UNIX version may negatively impact MailMax's adoption on the enterprise level.

Another aspect of MailMax that adversely affects its adoption on the enterprise level is the fact that the server is based on a Microsoft Access back-end database. Because Access really isn't meant to be used by more than one person, a number of features that enterprise users need are lacking in MailMax, including the inability to replicate the database, no mechanism for scheduling backups, no checkpointing or forward recovery capabilities, and the inability to take advantage of multiple CPUs on a server. While these aren't essential functions for the majority of mid-range organizations and ISPs, larger organizations will likely want to take a look at more flexible mail servers based on SQL databases or ones that offer SQL-based versions.

Still, for ISPs and mid-sized corporations that need a high-performance e-mail server and can make full use of its multihoming capabilities, MailMax makes for an attractive buy -- especially when factoring in the list price of $599 for an unlimited number of users, a relative bargain in the e-mail server world. For smaller organizations, MailMax is available in an economically priced package called MailMax/10. The $159 MailMax/10 offers all of the same features as the regular release but is limited to any combination of 10 user mailboxes across up to 10 domains.

Pros: 7 Multihoming capabilities, 7 Advanced local and remote administrative tools, 7 Excellent anti-spam tools, 7 Inexpensive price tag, 7 Intuitive and easy-to-use administrative graphical interface

Cons: 7 Lacks IMAP4 and LDAP support; 7 Heavy reliance on Windows NT; 7 No UNIX/Macintosh versions

New: 7 MailMax/10 release, 7 Multi-threaded mail sending capabilities, 7 Global e-mail bans, 7 SPY Mode, 7 Remote administration capabilities, 7 List of Features

New in v3.0: Single IP multi-homing capabilities, blind aliasing, Que Manager, User Box Manager, ETRN Support, SMTP Connection blocking by Single IP or range of IP's, Completely Consolidated New User Account Area, Added global domain mailbox size limit, Post Group wizard, Added Return-Receipt functionality, MMMonitor, anti-spamming controls, more expensive price tag ($599); Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 4

New in v4.0: Pop-before-send antispam control feature (SMTP Auth) that has IP override; orbs banning and blocking (also with IP override); global filtering to scan headers for offensive messages, systemwide; global, systemwide bans and locks; IMAP4 support; tree-enhanced logging; domain catchall account; domain-specific IP (smart-forwarding); completely redesigned and enhanced remote admin pages; enhanced connection tab monitoring; more than eight times as fast as the previous version; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 5

New in v4.6: Removes the message pointer information from the database, eliminating approximately four extra "looks" at the database; SMTP traps help block spam from passing by the server; domain IP forward feature address allows all mail sent to a particular domain to be forwarded to a mail server residing on the IP address specified; limits the number of simultaneous connections from the same IP address; rejects NULL "from:" field; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in v4.7: Remote administration; new, SmartRAM engine; can have the same account names at each domain on the mail server; three new "anti-spam" controls: POP Before Send, Orbs Black List Checking, and Global Bans/Blocks; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in v4.8: True SMTP authentication; users with e-mail clients that do not support SMTP authentication can check their mail from their current IP address before using the SMTP server; virus scanning support for both inbound and outbound mail; Mailbox Rules Processing, support for Microsoft SQL 2000 (or 7.0), Database Connectivity (ODBC Compliant), Global Content Filtering, and the capability to remotely view real-time kilobyte statistics have been added to the professional edition; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

Version Reviewed: 3.0
Date of Review: 5/10/99
Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard
Updated: 2/22/02

Operating Systems / Latest Versions:

Windows NT: Intel, Alpha - v2.0. Windows 95/98 - v2.0