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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 5 of 7

SmarterMail

We tested the free version of SmarterMail Windows-based mail server. SmarterMail is marketed as an 'Exchange-level' mail server. The free version we tested is limited to 10 users on a single domain. While this is the most limited of all the products tested, the free version of SmarterMail may be practical for small offices with just a few users. It is also somewhat unique in that it has all the features of the full version.

By default SmarterMail installs with its own embedded web server and we went with this approach for our first install, which took only a few minutes and prompted only for a minimum of configurations (admin password, IP address, DNS servers as well as basic anti spam and virus setup).

But since the vendor recommends using IIS for a more robust and secure installation, and we aren't very fond of embedded web servers anyway, switching to this setup was an easy choice. We installed SmarterMail on a Windows Server 2008 R2 box. The installation is the same regardless of the server you're using since the switch to IIS happens after the initial install. This involves stopping, then disabling the built-in web server and creating a site in IIS for SmarterMail. The only pre-requisite we needed to install was the .Net Framework 4.0.

Creating new domains is done from a tabbed screen with selections ranging from the basics, such as domain name and admin password, to more advanced settings such as throttling and event restrictions. Users are set up much the same way and while there are a number of custom settings that can be utilized, a basic account just needs an entry for user name and password. We found that for the most part you can accept default values and come back to tweak later.

SmarterMail is built for Webmail and has an intuitive interface that probably won't have you missing Outlook anytime soon. In addition to email you can manage calendars, contacts and instant messages from any device with a browser. Should you desire to use a desktop mail client instead, you can use a client such as Thunderbird or Outlook.

We tested with a Thunderbird client and were able to send and receive mail with no issues. SmarterMail also has a flexible auto-discovery feature that can be used on both desktops and mobile clients which allows a device to be configured by using just the email address and password. The rest of the configuration is automatically downloaded from the mail server.

SmarterMail has mobile support for most of the common devices such as Androids, Apple devices, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices. It also has built-in instant messaging and a mobile interface that was created for smartphones, making easier to navigate.

Server administration is accomplished through a browser-based interface allowing administrators the flexibility of remote access, something that is helpful, especially for smaller businesses where an IT admin might not be onsite at all times. The Flash tutorials provide a quick-start guide for new users, something we found helpful.

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