Getting Started With Kerio MailServer

By Joseph Moran (Send Email)
Posted Dec 4, 2009


When it comes to e-mail/collaboration servers in the Windows world, Microsoft Exchange enjoys both substantial mind and market share. Exchange isn't the only game in town, however, and small to medium size firms that are keen to run e-mail in-house — but balk at the potential cost and complexity of Exchange — do have other options.

Setup and Client Support

Kerio Mail Server's low price tag and ease of use make it a worthy choice for SMBs looking for a full-featured, easy-to-use Exchange-like server that costs a lot less.

In addition to the Windows version we used, which is compatible with every version of Windows from 2000 to 7, Kerio MailServer (KMS) is available for Mac and several Linux distros (CentOS, Debian, Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu) as well as in virtual appliance form for both Parallels and VMWare.

Getting a mail server up and running is seldom a trivial undertaking, but KMS makes the task about as painless as we can imagine it being. After installing KMS, a configuration wizard automatically runs to take you through initial steps like creating the e-mail domain and setting up a mail administrator account. It's up to you, however, to perform ancillary but critical tasks, such as creating the DNS MX record and opening up ports on the server's firewall to enable the various protocols KMS supports (POP, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP, HTTP and LDAP, as well as the secure versions of each).


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KMS WebmailInterface

After installing KMS on a Windows 2008 Server, we used its administration console software to log into the mail server and pull a user list from our domain's Active Directory so it could automatically create mail accounts. KMS was operational at a fundamental level within about 20 minutes of downloading it.

KMS offers plenty of options for users to get mail. In addition to support for standard POP/IMAP mail clients, KMS provides a MAPI-compliant connector with offline caching for Outlook XP, 2003 and 2007. There's also native support for Microsoft's Entourage, which will be good news to any firm with Mac clients. (Apple's own Mail, iCal, and Address Book apps are supported, too.) The KMS WebMail interface is quite good. It works with any modern version of IE, Firefox, or Safari. Using the WebMail client or Outlook/Entourage to connect to KMS gives you full access to not just e-mail, but shared calendar, contacts (including a Global Address List) and resource scheduling.

Although we didn't have the opportunity to try it for ourselves, KMS also includes push e-mail and contact/calendar sync support via ActiveSync for a variety of mobile device types like Windows Mobile, PalmOS, Symbian, BlackBerry and iPhone. (See here for details on specific platforms.) Mobile browser access is also available across all platforms.

Administration and Features


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KMS Admin Interface

The aforementioned KMS administration console centralizes access to all of the mail server's many configurable options and status information. The console's logical layout makes finding settings simple enough, but those looking for detailed information about particular settings must browse or search through a lengthy online administrator's guide. Integrated and context-sensitive help would be more convenient for those unfamiliar with all of the ins and outs of mail server tweaking.

KMS also offers a browser-based administration tool, but it doesn't offer the same comprehensive level of control you get with the app-based console. You can use it to manage domain settings like users, groups, lists and shared resources, however.

You don't have to look far to find spam control and anti-virus for KMS, as both are built into the product (although the latter is an extra-cost option). KMS uses the open-source SpamAssassin filter, white/blacklists, and a number of other techniques to help keep junk mail at bay.It also gives the admin a fair amount of latitude to decide how severe spam countermeasures will be. If you opt for it, KMS integrates an anti-virus engine from McAfee, but you can use one of several external products (AVG, Clam, ESET, Sophos, Symantec and others) for primary or supplementary virus protection. (You can also filter file attachments.)

KMS provides integrated server backup to a local or network folder, with e-mail notification upon successful (or unsuccessful) completion. Unfortunately, recovering data from a backup requires a separate command-line tool whether you want to recover the entire message store or just a single user mailbox or folder. Firms concerned about regulatory compliance will appreciate KMS' ability to archive all local, incoming, outgoing or relayed messages.

Pricing

You can download a fully functional 30-day trial of KMS, and although you don't have to provide any personal data to get it, registering does entitle you to tech support during the evaluation period. Considering the wealth of features, the price tag for KMS is quite reasonable: $499 for 10 users plus $20 for each additional user (although you must purchase extra users in $100 packs of five). Although it's not required, an annual subscription renewal fee of $150, plus $6 per user over 10, will get you a second year of software updates and e-mail or phone-based tech support.

The cost for KMS with the integrated McAfee anti-virus software is slightly higher, at $599 for the server, $24 per additional user, and $180 plus $7.20 per user for subscription renewal. For firms that prefer not to maintain their own mail server, KMS is also available as a hosted platform.

Kerio MailServer 6.7's cross-platform support, wealth of features, reasonable price and simple installation all make it an excellent Exchange alternative. If you're looking for Exchange-like capabilities at a lower price, it's arguably the closest you can get to the genuine article.

Pros: Cross-platform server and client support; offers extensive list collaboration features; simple installation
Cons: Anti-virus costs extra; backup recovery requires command-line tool

Joseph Moran is co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7 (friends of ED, 2009).

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