Nu-Mail -- E-mail server for managing incoming and outgoing mail
June 5, 2002
Aristoline's "NU-Mail" is sometimes referred to as "Qmail" in the documentation and even in the software itself.
And that's just the beginning of its problems.
Purportedly, NU-Mail is an e-mail gateway, or server, which is used to manage e-mail messaging within an intranet and between intranets and the Internet. The pricing and complexity of the software varies depending on which flavor an organization is looking for. According to Aristoline's Web page, there are two different versions: "standard", "professional," and "lite". It's also been said that there are three types of people in the world: Those who can count, and those who can't.
The standard version of NU-Mail seems to be oriented toward single intranets that also exchange e-mail with the Internet. This version lacks advanced mail management features such as spam control, message filtering, and auto-responders. Both the professional and lite versions contain full-feature sets, and possess higher learning curves.
The "lite" version, however, will work on only a single machine. In other words, in the lite configuration, the e-mail clients must run on the same machine as the NU-Mail server. It's not clear why anybody would want to do this.
It was difficult to get a confident feel for NU-Mail right from the start. Aristoline's Web pages are Spartan, and the documentation and its explanations are written in a stilted style. Under the surface, the basic principles behind NU-Mail seem sound. Like any e-mail server, the software relays outgoing messages to the Internet -- or to other intranets running NU-Mail -- and delivers incoming messages to local user mailboxes. Users can pick up their mail from NU-Mail by connecting with a standard POP3 client, such as Eudora, Outlook, or Netscape Messenger.
Installing NU-Mail on a 32-bit Windows operating system is straightforward and consumes about 5 MB of disk space. Unfortunately, every stage of the software, beginning with the installer has a "cheap" feel to it. The product seems to rely on low-end Windows development tools. Once launched, the software GUI has an ill-fitting appearance. Fonts don't seem to fit correctly inside of buttons, and window edges are rough hewn. NU-Mail's main configuration model is a tabbed-window paradigm, with a tab for each category such as "Administration," "Local Mailboxes," and "Outgoing Mail." Clicking each tab isn't enough to get into that category, though. You then need to click a button marked "Open."
It might seem like we're spending a lot of time on NU-Mail's GUI, but that's because NU-Mail's base feature set differs little from many other e-mail servers. The practical challenge for many e-mail servers is ease of configuration amid a sea of complex options. In this respect, NU-Mail does not succeed, as using the product often feels like being in a stranger's kitchen where you're not sure which cabinet holds the cutlery, the dishes, and the drinking cups.
In fairness, our testing did seem to indicate that NU-Mail does work, insofar as it does what it says it does. The issue, and it's not a small one, is getting to that point. E-mail servers are a fairly vital link in a network environment since messaging is so important. It's difficult to justify assigning such a role to a software package that falls short of inspiring confidence. Especially at the asking price Nu-Mail carries, considering the stiff competition (including the recently reviewed Internet Anywhere e-mail server.)
Pros: 7 Underlying technical descriptions are sound, 7 Product functions as described
Cons: 7 Confusing documentation, 7 awkward GUI programmed on the cheap, 7 unprofessional appearance doesn't inspire confidence as a server for managing important data such as messaging
New in v1.3:
Corrected a potential time out problem that occurred when forwarding a large message (using SMTP) across a dial-up connection;
fixed problem with local sender address validation using local IP addresses/sub-net addresses;
problem when creating on-demand dial-up connections was fixed;
problem defining pre and post process robots fixed;
added optional pre-defined recipient address on auto messages;
file attachments now available for auto messages;
messages received by an SMTP server whose sender and recipient addresses are not local are filtered, thus preventing the server from acting as an open relay;
verification provided that messages received by an SMTP server with a local MAIL FROM address originate from a local network (using IP Sub-Net masks);
resolved problem that occurred when extracting some recipient/sender addresses;
virus detection using Sophos Sweep;
rewrote schematic user interface to enable much easier access to the professional features;
wizard to kick start configuration added;
robot added that executes an external program that can optionally process the message that triggered the robot;
mailing of address lists to remote copies of NU-Mail and new robot to add these address lists into the recipient system added;
problem that occurred when extracting addresses when collecting mail via POP3 fixed;