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Review: 6 free email servers for small business

hMail Server (Windows only) comes in first, Citadel (Linux only) is a close second

By Susan Perschke, Network World
September 17, 2012 07:05 AM ET

Page 4 of 7

HMailServer has several built-in security features. On the spam handling side you can link to a variety of DNS black lists, SURBL reputation lists and do your own grey listing based on IP addresses. HMailServer also has the built-in capability of pointing to an external SpamAssasin server.

For virus protection hMailServer offers built in ClamWin integration and it can also be linked to any other virus scanner by pointing to an executable. By default hMailServer blocks certain attachments such as executables and you can also add other file extensions to the exclude list.

HMailServer has a flexible native rules builder that allows you to create custom rules for customizing how it handles mail. For instance, you can create a rule to delete emails from a certain domain, forward emails based on certain criteria or trigger a script.

Apache James

The Apache James (Java Apache Mail Enterprise Server) mail server is maintained by the Apache Software Foundation and the current stable release version is 2.3.2. Apache James is written entirely in Java and it runs on both the Unix/Linux and Windows platforms under supported Java architecture (which is a prerequisite). The server architecture is modular and components are developed based on an open technical standard.

Apache James has a flexible API that allows developers to develop their own mail processing agents called mailets. Mailets can be used for a variety of functions such as converting HTML emails to text, automatically adding a footer or writing to a log. Mailets can also be used to process spam by implementing techniques such as black lists, white lists, IP filtering, establishing usage limits and using Bayesian filtering. Several sample mailets are included with the Apache James 2.3.2 release.

To test the cross-platform claims, we installed James on a 64-bit Windows 7 desktop, where it worked well after some initial annoyances. The 1.4 Java version recommended in the documentation didn't work and we had to install a newer version (1.6). However, once we installed the later version of Java, the batch file install worked on the first try and we had the server up and running in about five minutes.

We also tested two third-party GUIs, but neither of these worked on our Windows machine and we were left with the decidedly more arcane and un-Windows-like method of configuring James via command prompt. Naturally, a server product would be preferred for a production environment, but we are believers that less is more and were pleased to find code with a small enough footprint to perform well on our Windows 7 desktop.

James can be used with a JDBC-compatible database to store both user data and messages. It ships with Apache Derby, an open source relational database with a small footprint (less than 3MB including the JDBC driver).

The current release supports both SMTP and POP, but not IMAP. IMAP is supported in the upcoming version 3, which has been in preview release for the past couple of years and is expected to become the current release sometime in 2012. Apache James also has a handy feature called Fetchmail, which allows a mail server to be configured to retrieve email from multiple POP3 servers and deliver it to a local spool.

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