ServersSkimming the Feature Pool With ArGoSoft Mail Server Pro

Skimming the Feature Pool With ArGoSoft Mail Server Pro

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ArGoSoft Mail Server Pro: Mail server with strong encryption and management features

ArGoSoft’s Mail Server Pro may not be enterprise class, but it delivers a solid, feature-laden product at an equally attractive price point — assuming you can see past the clunky interface.

Canadian vendor ArGoSoft’s entry into the crowded mail server market cuts against the usual grain. Where many of the newer mail servers target large businesses and enterprise clients, ArGoSoft’s Mail Server Pro has more humble aspirations: It seeks to fit more snugly in the lap of a home user, home office, or small business. To this end, Mail Server Pro includes a modest feature set and pricing scheme, as it attempts to smooth over some of the technical hurdles to administering an enterprise mail server.

The Mail Server product is available in three flavors — Freeware, Plus ($49), and Pro ($88 plus $49 for the optional IMAP module). We test drove the Pro version. The 3.6 MB download expands into 5 MB on disk. Of course, like all mail servers, disk space consumption grows as e-mail flows in. ArGoSoft provides its own custom installation scheme, which is basic but gets the job done. In fact, the somewhat roughhew feel of the installation foreshadows the administration of the server itself.

By no means is Mail Server Pro’s feature list bare bones. It supports an unlimited number of accounts, GUI-based administration and user management, distribution lists, mailing lists, basic security and filtering features, and a Webmail interface. The Pro version also supports virtual domains, enabling one machine to behave as separate mail servers with independent sets of user mailboxes.

Mail Server Pro’s Windows-based administration interface is a relatively clunky collection of drop-down menus and tabbed windows. The organization of options is somewhat loose, and there is a lack of clarity in some menus. For example, in the Tools/Options menu (which itself somewhat inscrutable), one option tab is named “Advanced 1,” and another is named “Advanced 2.” Ultimately, the administration interface is serviceable, and with enough pointing and clicking you learn your way around. Suffice to say, there is much room for improvement here.

In Mail Server Pro’s favor, remote administration is available via the product’s built-in Web server. This same Web server dishes up a Webmail interface for mail users. The initial appearance of the Webmail view is very basic but is customizable through a set of Web templates. IMAP support, which maintains user mail folders on the server for universal access, is present, minus some useful features such as searching.

Mail Server Pro includes several tools for filtering messages in an attempt to defend against spam. It contains the basic content filters that look for specified key words in message fields and attachments. However, unless another server has been marking spam further upstream, this kind of filter isn’t terribly effective, and it is certainly not useful as a first line of defense. Address verification can be used to detect spam e-mail with spoofed headers, which is quite common. It is unclear exactly how this verification is performed, but the product does not appear to use the newly standardized Sender Policy Framework (SPF) method.

Administrators can also create various lists — white lists and trusted and banned IP masks or senders — to further harden the system. The server can connect with several third-party services (i.e., RBL, ORDB, and the subscription-based MAPS), that match incoming messages against known spam sources. Through its support for DLL-based server extensions, Mail Server Pro can filter mail via virtually any method available in a third-party extension. For example, DLLs are available for anti-virus filters and anti-spam blocks that may use even more advanced methods (such as Bayesian filtering) than any of Mail Server Pro’s internal defenses.

On the flip side, Mail Server Pro can disallow relaying (wisely, this is the default setting on installation), SMTP authentication, and POP-before-SMTP requirements to prevent spammers from abusing the server.

For organizations that can adapt to the klunky interface, Mail Server Pro adequately meets the needs of an individual, home LAN, or small business at a reasonable price.

Pros: Good feature set; Webmail support; Good price.
Cons: Basic and klunky interfaces both local and Web; Limited IMAP support; Anti-spam defenses not enterprise level.

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 8/26/2004
Original Review Version:

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