GuidesDeerfield.com: Out With MDaemon, in With VisNetic MailServer Pro

Deerfield.com: Out With MDaemon, in With VisNetic MailServer Pro




VisNetic MailServer Pro is part of Deerfield.com’s revamped product line, in this case replacing the venerable MDaemon Mail Server (now sold and supported by Alt-N Technologies). Like MDaemon, VisNetic MailServer operates solely in the Microsoft Windows environment. Also like MDaemon, VisNetic MailServer is a reasonably priced server for small and midsize enterprises that emphasizes ease of use, performance, and support for business-related e-mail.

VisNetic MailServer Pro is Deerfield.com’s latest mail server offering. Small and midsize enterprises seeking a stable, easy to use, and well-supported mail server would be wise to consider this offering.

The new offering is less strong, however, when it comes to spam control and some details of security, but the business benefits of a good list server and the currently bundled MailFlow application are enough of a plus to overshadow this.

If you’re familiar with e-mail and Internet protocols, VisNetic MailServer can be installed and configured in about 10 minutes. This has become the norm for mail servers; user friendly installation is a high priority. VisNetic MailServer provides a quick installation guide; however, detailed documentation isn’t shipped with the download product, and you have to go to the Web site and download it separately.

VisNetic MailServer has modest resource requirements: a 166 MHz processor and 64 MB RAM for fewer than 50 users. A hand-me-down server on a small-office LAN could use it quite effectively. On the other hand, VisNetic MailServer also supports multiple CPU processing (if you have them) and fast memory management for extra speed. The small footprint and good performance are a selling point.

Although not designed for a multitude of users, VisNetic MailServer can load user accounts from the Windows NT user service and from connecting to an ODBC database. The ODBC connections are used to load list server names and for other administrative data storage. Users can connect to the mail server through their usual mail client program (e.g., Microsoft Outlook). A Web-based e-mail client is also provided, primarily for those enterprises that want to brand their e-mail program or customize e-mail handling.

One of the major reasons for installing a company mail server is its capability to act as a message router, spam blocker, anti-virus, and content filtering mechanism — often replacing numerous (and costly) programs on individual PCs. VisNetic MailServer has successfully developed its constellation of features and services around this approach.

VisNetic MailServer supports LAN, dial-up, and on-demand mail relay (ATRN) connections. It can also successfully poll multiple accounts to collect mail for redistribution. It supports the usual POP3 and SMTP protocols but also adds IMAP4 and APOP to the list. IMAP4 isn’t as prominently featured in VisNetic MailServer as it is in other mail servers, such as Kerio Mail Server.

However, connection, routing, and mail handling security is quite complete and includes support for TLS (Transport Layer Security)/SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), user authentication, and numerous options for controlling what IP addresses will be accepted by the server.

Spam blocking and content filtering is adequate, although VisNetic MailServer’s filtering is relatively crude and doesn’t support scripted filtering such as SIEVE (as Vircom’s VOPModus Mail does). Anti-virus support comes from Kaspersky Labs and is an add-on priced from $99.95 per year for six users. Other mail servers may bundle their anti-virus software, but they often charge a yearly update fee (although this is often on a less-expensive per-server basis rather than a per-user basis).

On the plus side, in keeping with Deerfield.com’s philosophy of supporting features that have a commercial advantage for small and midsize organizations, VisNetic MailServer comes with a very good list server, an offering often used as the basis of e-mail marketing campaigns. In this case, the list server dovetails with VisNetic MailFlow. At the time of this review, MailFlow is a significant add-on product bundled with VisNetic MailServer.

MailFlow is a customer e-mail management and distribution program that processes incoming requests for support and other business activity. It labels each message as a “ticket” and routes it to the appropriate “agents” (employees) for attention. It can also produce automatic responses based on business rules and boilerplate language.

The administrative tools provided with VisNetic MailServer, both at the server and for remote use, are utilitarian — covering all the bases though with a minimum of explanation and graphical layout. In addition to a log system that records both traffic and diagnostic events, administrators can schedule backup of important system information, such as user data and server configuration — a necessary precaution.

Although not a main feature, VisNetic MailServer can be customized in look and feel, and it has its own API access that make it modifiable for specific circumstances.

Lest we haven’t been clear: VisNetic MailServer Pro is not designed for server farms or complex domain management, but it handles the basics very well. It’s fast, small, full-featured and generally a good value — especially with the included list server and MailFlow product.

Pros: Support for external databases through ODBC and the inclusion of a good list server; Includes MailFlow, while it lasts.
Cons: Relatively expensive anti-virus add-on and filtering/spam-blocking techniques are weak.

Reviewed By: Nelson King
Original Review Date: 10/10/2002

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