ServersThe Evolution of Mailsite

The Evolution of Mailsite

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Now a very mature version 8, Mailsite has introduced several collaboration features that support its evolution toward groupware. Will the low-cost mail server steal some of Microsoft Exchange’s thunder?

Despite the dominance of Microsoft Exchange in the mail server and collaboration space, a crowd of competitors continue to vie for customer dollars. Like Starbucks is to coffee, Exchange is not just ubiquitous: It also drives interest in alternatives, one of which is Rockliffe’s MailSite Collaborator SE. A veteran in the mail server arena, Mailsite has now matured to version 8 and, as marketed under the name “Mailsite Collaborator,” clearly emphasizes the product’s evolution toward groupware.

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Need a Definition?

Mailsite is delivered as a bundled download that can be licensed in one of several versions. The small business or SE edition is free for up to 20 mailboxes, with license fees available for a larger userbase. Larger organizations can license Mailsite in LE or even service provider editions at pricing levels customized for that specific deployment. The hefty 65MB download installs into a base footprint of 250MB and may need much more disk space to accommodate mail traffic and storage.

The Windows Installer walks users through installation, including adding several Web-based services to the server’s IIS installation. Mailsite’s new AJAX-based Webmail server is coded using ASP.NET, but our default IIS installation did not have ASP.NET support enabled, which prevented the Webmail server from loading. The problem was ultimately easy to correct, but time would have been saved if the installer could verify ASP.NET support upfront.

Administration of Mailsite is available through a local Windows client or by Web browser. The local client is utilitarian and a bit spartan, but it is relatively easy to find and access the desired configuration pages. The online help is concise and clearly written.

E-mail security through Mailsite is based on a phalanx of defenses. Admins can create server-wide whitelist and blacklists and customize sieve scripts. These scripts define actions to be taken for a message based on set criteria, such as spam scores, presence on blacklists or RBL (real-time blacklist) servers, and so on. Admins can build a series of sieve scripts and assign scripts either to the whole server or per-domain, if the server is hosting multiple domains.

Mailsite relies on external services for anti-virus and anti-spam filtering. Although the administrative interface integrates support for Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Mailshell Anti-Spam filtering, both require separate annual licenses beyond the trial period.

Given the maturation of open source tools for anti-virus and anti-spam, it would be preferable to see them integrated as alternatives. With version 8, Mailsite introduces support for greylisting, a process that bounces messages whose senders are not in the recipient’s contact list. The sender is advised to retry their message, which will be let through on the theory that spammers hit with a given message only once. Recipients who would rather not bounce incoming messages from unknown contacts can disable greylisting on a per-account basis.

In its evolution toward groupware, Mailsite 8 also introduces several collaboration features designed to steal some thunder from Microsoft Exchange. Users with Microsoft Outlook can now maintain (multiple) calendars without being tethered to Exchange. Calendars can also be managed through Mailsite’s new AJAX-based Webmail interface, called ExpressPro. And unlike Exchange, Mailsite users can share calendars with third-party calendar clients, including Google Calendar and Apple iCal. Besides calendars, Mailsite can also sync contacts with Outlook 2003 or 2007 users.

Speaking of AJAX-based Webmail, Mailsite includes three Webmail servers — one for mobile users (called Pocket), one “conventional” Webmail (Express) on limited browsers, and one “Web 2.0” interface (ExpressPro), reminiscent of that seen at Yahoo Mail or Outlook Web Access. All are included with all Mailsite editions (including the free one). ExpressPro behaves like a more full-featured e-mail client within the browser, as it offers such features as a visual calendar, spell checking, and contacts stored and sharable in vCard format.

One caveat: Although a step up from the standard Express Webmail interface, ExpressPro is in its first incarnation and would benefit from some more time on the vine to match Outlook Web Access.

Pros: Easy management; Good documentation; AJAX Webmail included with free edition.
Cons: Requires Microsoft IIS; Additional subscriptions for anti-spam and anti-virus updates.

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 11/14/2007
Original Review Version: 8.0.3

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