UnityMail -- An advanced list server with ODBC database integration for Win platforms

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jun 25, 2002

List server administrators usually deal with the issue of large-list management with brute force -- just keep throwing hardware at the problem until you eventually get acceptable performance. And as far as users are concerned -- well, they can just learn the proper (and all-too-often proprietary) syntax if they want to make changes to their user profiles.

The rules have changed with the release of UnityMail 2, an advanced list server for Windows that gives administrators ample reason to leave behind the shortcomings of traditional list servers. UnityMail combines powerful user-customization tools with database integration, allowing system administrators to finely target electronic mail to those who want it. List server administrators usually deal with the issue of large-list management with brute force -- just keep throwing hardware at the problem until you eventually get acceptable performance. And as far as users are concerned -- well, they can just learn the proper (and all-too-often proprietary) syntax if they want to make changes to their user profiles.

UnityMail's database options, in particular, are outstanding. The server has a built-in database with user-definable attributes: name, age, sex, income, address, title, education, and so on. In addition, UnityMail can connect directly to any ODBC-compliant database on your network (not necessarily on the same machine housing UnityMail). ODBC connectivity means that UnityMail can pluck data from sophisticated relational database managers like those from Oracle, Microsoft (SQL Server), and Informix. UnityMail also includes several built-in database filters that allow you to hone in on targeted groups or to personalize e-mail.

UnityMail is also highly integrated with the World Wide Web in terms of gathering information and maintaining user profiles -- much more so than any other list server on the market. Instead of relying on e-mail messages with cryptic text commands for changing a user's status, UnityMail uses Web-based forms for users to initiate and maintain their own list membership. A questionnaire on a Web server can be used for administrators to directly gather information from users. Forms that you design are used as the front end for users.

In addition, you can use your Web site as an embedded link in an HTML mail message. Once a user receives your e-mail and then connects to your Web site, UnityMail tracks this information. You can link specific actions in UnityMail to specific actions from users: for instance, if a user clicks through your Web site to look for more information about another client, you can follow up by generating e-mail touting the advantages of another client.

While this feature skims dangerously close to the edge of spam mail -- at least in the broadest sense of the term, used to describe unsolicited e-mail -- users have the power to be immediately taken off a mailing list if the server behavior becomes abusive. In fact, users need only to connect to a Web site and click on a single button in order to remove themselves from a UnityMail list.

In terms of administration, UnityMail is remarkably simple to install and maintain. It's extremely easy to add, remove, or change the attributes of users, and as a result of its browser-based administration support, the server itself can be administered from anywhere on the Internet. The remote administration capabilities ease any operating system requirements, although we would like to see a Unix version of UnityMail in the near future.

The downloadable 30-day evaluation release of UnityMail allows you to create one list manager and one database partition. It also allows you to import up to 1,000 subscribers. The standard release of UnityMail can be purchased for $3,995 and offers support for up to 10,000 subscribers, two manager accounts, and two database partitions, but it does not include ODBC connectivity (a $5,995 Plus release offers the same features as the standard version plus ODBC support).

Five other releases are available as well, including a $12,995 Expert release that supports up to 150,000 subscribers, 6 manager accounts, and six database partitions, and an Enterprise version that offers support for an unlimited number of subscribers and up to 15 manager account and database partitions. Detailed information on all of the pricing plans is available from the UnityMail Web site.

Overall, UnityMail 2.0 is the best list server that we've ever seen -- so good, in fact, that it should be the standard for comparison, and the first product you review, when choosing a list server for your business.

Pros: 7 Integration with ODBC databases, 7 Easy to configure, 7 Many client tools, 7 Sophisticated tracking of click-throughs, 7 Remote browser-based administration capabilities, 7 Scalable list server solution

Cons: 7 No Unix/Macintosh versions, 7 Relatively expensive (less expensive list servers available)

New in v2.1: Free form filters, 7 Rapid unjoin feature, 7 Customized content (content merge), 7 Web-based administration capabilities, 7 Support for HTML mail, 7 Ability to send (and track) banner ads in HTML mail, 7 Multiple database support;
Upgrade Meter: 5

New in v3.0: Dynamic Content Management, a new high-speed SMTP email delivery engine, can use Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0 for member-related functions, including Web forms, trackable URLs and the member control panel; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 5

New in v3.00.858: Fixed multipart mixed (not all e-mail clients displayed text and included the HTML as an attachment, some browsers displayed the HTML and offered the text file as an attachment); fixed campaign messages; fixed bounce statistics; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

New in v4.0: New task management capabilities, load-balancing, a streamlined Web-based user interface, and scalability features that distribute the most crucial and intensive e-mail delivery and response handling tasks to dedicated machines; personalized e-mail features for text or HTML; e-mail marketing campaign scheduling; mailing lists can now be targeted by user characteristics, such as behavior, interests, or demographic profile; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 5

New in v5.0: System reports allow administrators to analyze the characteristics and limits of the database, including partition sizes, names, creation dates, total members, and managers, and the total number of messages; list reports allow the viewing of trends on member activities over time (weekly, monthly, and annually); message reports enable the analysis of select messages by examining message summary reports and drilling down to URL clickthroughs, HTML opens, and bounces; new language capabilities keep the user interface in English, but enable the sender to transmit messages in single and double-byte character sets; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 4

New in v5.1: New capabilities added to system, list, and message reports; user interface remains in English, but messages can be sent in single or double-byte character sets; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

Version Reviewed: 2.1
Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard
Last Updated: 11/5/01
Date of Original Review: 8/10/98

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