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MDaemon Pro: Still a Mail Server That Professionals Can Rely On

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Dec 18, 2002


Now in its sixth (and a half) revision, Alt-N Technologies' MDaemon Pro stands out as a workhorse enterprise-level mail server that is packaged with a vast collection of extras.

Now in its sixth (and a half) major release and with its second vendor, Alt-N Technologies' MDaemon Pro still stands out as a workhorse enterprise-level mail server. This latest iteration adds group calendaring and scheduling, instant messaging, and a list server to the mail server's array of functionality.

This iteration of MDaemon Pro adds group calendaring and scheduling, instant messaging, and a list server. It ships with an e-mail program (WorldClient), offers free downloadable extensions for LDAP, and an administrative Web access program. Alt-N is also offering an optional anti-virus module. These and other features add up to a powerful mail server system.

It doesn't take long to install MDaemon, perhaps ten minutes including initial configuration. Its requirements are modest: a Windows operating system and a relatively recent vintage Pentium server. Wizards and a help system are available for those who don't want to deal with the numerous options. However, it is the options that make MDaemon a powerful server.

In the MDaemon administration program, MDConfig, one look at the toolbar's 31 buttons provides the correct impression -- this is a detailed and in-depth mail management system. Added to the basic mail server setup are (among other functionality): user management, optional anti-virus, a LDAP database, mail grouping and routing, and security configurations. This is a "serious" mail management system (which is not to imply that other products aren't serious) that requires planning and familiarity with e-mail protocols.

Strong Routes

Designed as a hub for incoming mail from one or more ISP POP3 mailboxes, MDaemon provides IMAP functionality (management of mail on the server) and sophisticated routing capabilities. To distribute incoming e-mail you can set up any number of groups or mail lists; then you can designate them as public or private, define header and content filters, set automatic replies, and create a message digest format. You can also create address aliases to route multiple "fictitious" e-mail addresses to a valid account, or use the Domain Gateway feature to collect mail for remote or local domains. These features, which go beyond simple e-mail routing, are an important "value add" and part of the rationale for an in-house mail server.

Like other aspects of MDaemon, the user management is very scalable. You can start with manual entry of user accounts, let users do much of the entry themselves (using the WorldClient and WebAccess programs), import names from address books, set up an ODBC database, or connect to an LDAP server (using LDaemon, a free, downloadable program). From our testing and experiences with MDaemon, this system can handle large numbers of users and gives you enough control to manage them.

Can the Spam

Security provisions in MDaemon, while not its strongest point, are more than adequate. They include a Spam Blocker, IP and host screening, reverse DNS lookup, and address suppression. We particularly liked the new tarpitting option, which automatically slows down a connection that has reached a set number of RCPT commands. This should cause spammers to avoid the server as being too slow without the need for direct monitoring and intervention.

The capability to filter inbound and outbound mail is very flexible, but largely manual. In other words, you set all the rules by creating them in the Filter Editor, which is a simple logical expression builder (and familiar to programmers). This approach is effective, but it's not as easy as products that offer filter libraries, nor does it offer as much depth as the Sieve filtering language. Anti-virus protection is provided by an optional plug-in developed with Kaspersky Labs (prices range from $100 for a six-user license to $1,250 for unlimited users, with yearly fees thereafter). Teaming with a single commercial service has become typical for mail servers, although a few (such as Kerio Mail Server) offer multiple anti-virus protection approaches.

A Bevy of Components

The included e-mail program, WorldClient, is browser-based, multilingual, and provides a complete suite of e-mail tools that encompasses (in addition to mail reading and creation), scheduling and planning, and instant messaging (with other WorldClient users). The latter requires a separately installed program, ComAgent, which also can be used to connect to an optional MDaemon RelayFax server, and enables mail pick-up and delivery without needing to fire up the browser. This version of MDaemon also supports cell phone e-mail through and arrangement with Class-M Planet. MDaemon uses its filtering engine to select e-mails that are suitable for cell phone mail.

In addition to its server configuration program, MDConfig, MDaemon offers a Web-based configuration program, WebAdmin, with a new version (2.0) that now supports multiple languages, account editing, and alias editing. WebAdmin allows logging into the MDaemon server from anywhere on the Web for both users and administrators. It's available as a free download (which to us only begs the question of why it isn't packaged with MDaemon).

Last but not least of the components is a basic list server capability built into MDaemon that dovetails nicely with the server's routing features.

MDaemon also ships in a Standard version, but that does not include most of the enterprise-level features, such as ODBC and LDAP support or the calendar and scheduling capabilities.

It should be noted that MDaemon was formerly distributed by Deerfield.com but has since reverted to Alt-N Technologies. Deerfield.com now markets a competing line of products (Visnetic), which are not compatible with MDaemon. However, among Deerfield's products is the "Visnetic Antivirus plug-in for MDaemon."

MDaemon Pro is a product with a track record, a robust server engine, and an accumulation of many features. In a few areas, such as security, it's not as slick as other products, but it leaves no base untouched. Especially with the free LDaemon, WorldClient, and WebAdmin programs, MDaemon Pro is competitively priced -- even when one adds in the cost of the anti-virus program. For an enterprise-oriented product, this is a very complete system for a bargain price.

Pros: A very complete system scalable for enterprise-level use, combined with a very large number of mail control features
Cons: Needs more help for administrators without mail server experience; Security functionality could be better

Reviewed by: Nelson King
Original Review Date: 12/18/2002
Original Review Version: 6.5.1

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