GuidesIceWarp Takes the Linux Mail Server Plunge

IceWarp Takes the Linux Mail Server Plunge




Merak Linux Mail Server: High-performance, Linux-based e-mail server supported by a suite of products with anti-spam, anti-virus, FTP, IM, groupware, and WebMail capabilities.

Taking on the Linux world with an e-mail server that is neither open source nor free in any sense of the word is a risky endeavor. IceWarp is diving in with a high-performance mail engine and a suite of additional components to accompany it.

Developing one of the better e-mail servers for the Windows market is one thing. Taking on the Linux world with an e-mail server that is neither open source nor free in any sense of the word is an entirely different kettle of fish.

IceWarp’s Merak Linux Mail Server has taken the plunge, however, and delivers a high-performance mail engine and a suite of additional components, including anti-spam and groupware, that add up to a strong “single source” package.

Over the years, Merak Mail Server has moved toward a performance-oriented market. The Linux version solidifies this positioning. It is sold in four versions — standard, professional, ISP, and enterprise — with tiered pricing based on the number of users and the inclusion of other modules. The enterprise version packages a full roster of components: anti-spam, anti-virus, instant messaging, and WebMail, as well as an FTP server, Web server, and groupware server with groupware integration. An e-mail server migration tool is also included. Offering a suite of related products is not unusual for a mail server vendor, but seldom are products so complete, and it is even more unusual in the Linux market. As it does for its Windows servers, IceWarp competes well with its bundle pricing and offers the advantage of an integrated suite of communications products.

Built for Speed

As of press time, Merak Linux Mail Server is certified only for Red Hat Linux 4SE and CentOS. It might run on other Linux distributions but the list of specifically required libraries is long and lends itself to complications: OpenSSL, Kerberos, Glibc v2.3 or higher, Libz (gzip), Standard DNS, PAM, MySQL 4.1, and Bash or compatible equivalent. Linux Mail Server can be installed quickly, but be prepared to spend considerable time configuring it.

Although IceWarp has gone to some lengths to synchronize the features and capabilities of its Windows and Linux versions, the company recognizes there are differences. Installation and configuration under Linux is characteristically less wizard-like and more command-line-oriented than the Windows version. The core e-mail engine of the server is not a simple port of the Windows version, but rather a version built and tuned for Linux. We were unable to run controlled trials, but IceWarp’s claim that the Linux version is considerably faster than the Windows version appears accurate.

Covered Basics

The Merak server (or servers) can be managed with the Administration Console or a browser-based interface. Access to most of the important features is provided, but some management will require command-line action and special utilities. Support is provided for all the usual e-mail protocols (ie., SMTP, ESMTP, POP3, and IMAP 4), and some of the built-in features include proxy services, multiple domains, mailing lists and list server, notifications, catalogs, remote accounts, system backup, and a native Web server.

User management is adequate, although bulk loading of many users and updating authentication information is less sophisticated than in other products. Security for the system is generally very good (especially with the anti-virus and anti-spam modules in place) and includes open-relay control, tarpitting, SSL, and content filtering.

Now, About Those Other Modules …

Whether running Linux or Windows, dealing with e-mail viruses and spam is a universal concern. In all but its least expensive (standard edition) incarnation, Merak Linux Mail Server includes anti-virus and anti-spam modules. The anti-virus package integrates AVG7 from Grisoft, which provides the virus definition updates. The anti-spam package is put together by IceWarp itself and includes SpamAssassin (with Sender Policy Framework, Spam URI Realtime Blocklist, Bayesian filters), DomainKeys, Reverse Black List, black and white lists, and content filters. IceWarp updates the spam lists and claims “near 100 percent accuracy.” We particularly liked the range of ways to respond to spam mail, including spam folders automatically created for each user, changing the spam subject line, deletion of spam, rejection of spam, and a challenge and response mechanism. We consider the anti-spam module exceptional.

These days, e-mail is hardly alone in the Internet communications game. Although Merak Linux Mail Server does not get into multimedia and telephony, it does provide an attractive range of companion modules for the mail server: The Jabber-compliant IM client offers connections to major IM services, including AOL and MSN. There is also a WebMail client module, a usable GroupWare module that includes calendar and group functions that can integrate with Microsoft Outlook, and an FTP server.

In the sendmail and Postfix world of Linux, IceWarp Merak Linux Mail Server competes best where it would be most used — with ISPs and enterprise communications. In these contexts, the integrated modules and high-performance server, combined with professional service and support, justify the (moderate) pricing.

Pros: Performance and large installation orientation combined with the solid integration of important (anti-virus, anti-spam) and useful (IM, workgroup, FTP, WebMail) modules.
Cons: Limited support for various Linux distributions; More and better Linux-specific documentation is needed; For some, the fact that this is Linux version and not open-source is a negative in itself.

Reviewed by: Nelson King
Original Review Date: 5/25/2006
Original Review Version: 8.3.8

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