Another bonus for small companies on a budget: IMail Server has relatively modest system requirements. According to the company, if you have fewer than 250 active users, the software will function on a Pentium 100MHz system with just 64MB of RAM, although Ipswitch also says that those are only estimates, and "actual requirements and performance vary greatly with the amount and type of e-mail traffic...." So we think it wise to be cautious about adopting a minimalist configuration. We tested the software on a Dell 2400 Pentium III 533MHz Web server with 384MB of RAM and Windows 2000 Advanced Server. The program is designed for Windows NT 3.51 or later and Windows 2000, and does not currently run on UNIX.
Flick the Switch
Ipswitch pitches IMail Server as the "20-minute mail solution." And even though our setup took a little bit longer than 20 minutes, we can attest to the server's ease of installation. The process was straightforward and required little user input. What few queries we did have were answered by the helpful user manual. An intuitive dialog prompts you for an installation directory and asks whether you want to set up an e-mail user account as part of the initial installation process. The software automatically reads domain name system information from Windows NT and Windows 2000, so you don't need to set that up manually.
According to Ipswitch, IMail Server gives you the capability to host thousands of discrete domains - such as "yesterday.com," "today.com," "tomorrow.com" - on one server by using virtual hosts. You can opt to configure your virtual hosts with or without IP addresses. To set up a virtual host on Windows NT or 2000, you must assign the appropriate DNS record - and in Windows 2000, that can be tricky if you're new to the operating system. Nevertheless, in less than an hour we had successfully set up e-mail servers for two different domains.
Once past the initial setup, you can go back into the software to set up additional e-mail accounts; we were able to do so in less than ten minutes. IMail Server lets you create aliases, custom vacation messages, and mail-forwarding parameters. Users can read mail from IMail Server using any client that supports either POP3 or IMAP4. We tested IMail Server with both Qualcomm Eudora 3.0 and Microsoft Outlook Express 2000, both of which are easy to configure; you simply provide a user name, a password, and SMTP (outgoing) and POP (incoming) server names. The ability of users to remotely maintain their own e-mail accounts helps to take the burden off the e-mail administrator. The software's message-handling capacity depends somewhat on the host system's processing power.
In our informal testing, we found IMail Server to be a user-friendly alternative to big groupware solutions such as Microsoft Exchange Server and Lotus Notes. The server was as easy to maintain and administrate as it was to set up: A single, intuitive user interface allows you to manage and adjust properties related to users, hosts, services, mail, messaging, aliases, and group distribution mailings.
Version 6.0 offers a host of new features, including support for SSL encryption security to protect e-mail content and passwords. This version also has an enhanced, fully customizable Web messaging interface that enables searching and filing of messages stored on the server, so your e-mail users can view and send their e-mail via any Web browser.
IMail Server 6.0 is a good choice for just about any small to medium-size organization, and it is particularly attractive for companies with limited budgets and IT resources. If you need solid e-mail server capabilities now, without the hassle of a complicated setup and a big bill, IMail Server is worth considering. You can download a free 45-day evaluation version from Ipswitch (http://www.ipswitch.com).