Axigen Mail Server, A breath of Fresh Air

Axigen Mail Server: Turnkey Unix-based mail server. As a turnkey mail server, Axigen delivers a unique twist on the usual Unix server scenario.

Often, Linux and other Unix-like operating systems are touted for the wide range of freely distributable, open source software available, particularly servers. Axigen Mail Server delivers a twist on the usual Unix server scenario. The commercial mail server promises turnkey advantages over open source solutions.

On the typical Linux system, a conventional open source mail server requires coordination between a variety of separate components — sendmail or postfix for SMTP, for example, Squirrelmail and Apache for Webmail, plus additional applications for POP, IMAP, authentication, usage reports, and so on. Although the individual pieces are available without licensing fees, putting them all together can require time and expertise, both of which incur costs of their own.

Axigen Mail Server bundles all these services into its proprietary codebase aimed at the network administrator looking for an off-the-shelf mail server solution on a Linux/BSD platform. The 10MB download is packaged for target systems, such as Red Hat, SUSE or Ubuntu. Generic packages are also available. With only a 30MB installed footprint, the bulk of disk space Axigen consumes is for the messages themselves.

Installation is performed by command-line only and requires some familiarity with the Linux terminal or managing installation packages in the Linux distribution. Once installed, you create an initial administrator password, also in a command-line interface.

Axigen installs as a network service and launches its own bundled Web server for browser-based administration and Webmail connections. Its admin interface, although comprehensive, is not for mail server newbies. It lacks guided or task-based wizards to walk you through particular configurations, although it does feature in-line help for many options. The interface layout could use some polish, particularly where multiple buttons for saving changes sometimes co-exist on a page and appear to behave differently from one another. Admins who prefer to configure the server old-school can work directly on its text-mode configuration file. The server also offers a command-line interface for manual execution of commands and batch scripts for automating tasks.

A collection of modules support the expected mail services, including POP3 and IMAP4 with support for SSL/TLS secure connections. Axigen also includes a list server module, supporting automated listservs. Its message-filtering module promises a great deal of power and flexibility for managing spam, viruses and other content-based disturbances. But, nearly all of this power is outsourced to external software via Axigen's API.

Although Axigen suggests support for anti-spam and anti-virus defenses, both are provided through plug-ins to third-party software, namely ClamAV and Spam Assassin. While both are free software, Axigen's reliance on integration with these third-party tools slightly undermines the advantage of a turnkey solution.

Axigen's HSP language does provide powerful scripting capabilities for interacting with the message filter, opening the doors to robust message processing. The server support Sender Policy Framework (SPF), for authenticating messages in an effort to reduce forged spam, but it does not support DomainKeys, a similar technology.

Axigen Mail Server is available in three editions, "StartUp," "Business" and "Service Provider." Each differs primarily in license and support service, with service level agreements available for the Service Provider edition. At press time, the StartUp edition includes a promotional free time-unlimited license good for up to nine users, one domain, and one year of basic-level technical support.

Pros: Quick deployment compared to popular Linux/BSD mail server solutions; Comprehensive Web administration; Webmail server included.
Cons: Lacks guided configuration; Falls back on integration with third-party software for important anti-spam and anti-virus defenses.

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 08/31/2006
Original Review Version: 1.2.5

This article was originally published on Sep 1, 2006
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