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Ask Slashdot: Self-Hosted Gmail Alternatives?

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the that-is-one-tall-order dept.

Google 554

linkedlinked writes "I'm tired of building my sandcastles on Google's beachfront. I've moved off Docs, Plus, and Analytics, so now it's time to host my own email servers. What are the best self-host open-source email solutions available? I'm looking for 'the full stack' — including a Gmail-competitive web GUI — and don't mind getting my hands dirty to set it up. I leverage most of Gmail's features, including multi-domain support, and fetching from remote POP/IMAP servers. Bonus points: Since I'm a hobbyist, not a sysadmin, and I normally outsource my mail servers, what new security considerations do I need to make in managing these services?"

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Shoot yourself (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014356)

Oh fuck you, you fucking faggot. Just shoot yourself and spare us your pathetic existence.

Re:Shoot yourself (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014546)

Nice to see your co-operative spirit here on /. early on a weekend morning. Why don't you just get started with the 4-5 drinks you normally use to even out your mood and spare us your venom.

SquirrelMail? (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | about 3 years ago | (#37014362)

http://squirrelmail.org/download.php [squirrelmail.org]

Interface takes a bit of getting used to, but its allright. It doesn't look as pretty or as polished as gmail but it'll work. Obviously you could/should use an email client and just access them through POP or whatever.

Roundcube (3, Informative)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 3 years ago | (#37014390)

SquirrelMail is awesome for being simple, fast, and non-JavaScript.

If you want something more JavaScripty, there's Roundcube [roundcube.net] .

It's not gmail, but the point is your data's yours.

Postfix/Dovecot setup tutorials [google.com]

Re:Roundcube (1)

cshark (673578) | about 3 years ago | (#37014586)

I was surprised at how nice RoundCube is these days.
I still like Zimbra better though.

Re:SquirrelMail? (5, Insightful)

wolrahnaes (632574) | about 3 years ago | (#37014434)

You have to be blind if you consider Squirrelmail anywhere close to comparable to a modern interface like Gmail. It pretty much embodies the visual style of '90s Perl scripts, and that's certainly not a good thing.

Re:SquirrelMail? (0)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 3 years ago | (#37014560)

Well, even though the guy in the article is no sysadmin, he can (if he desired) break out the CSS skills and fix the output to look as pretty as he wants.

Or, do what most companies do who use it and have it plug into a CMS.

Re:SquirrelMail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014716)

Maybe it's my Hosting service (dreamhost), but SquirrelMail was sluggish for me. So I switched to Gmail POP.

Spam filtering (2)

josgeluk (842109) | about 3 years ago | (#37014366)

Well, for starters, you want a damn good spam filter.

Re:Spam filtering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014446)

DSPAM, CRM114 or OSBF-Lua. Forget SpamAssassin.

Re:Spam filtering (5, Funny)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 3 years ago | (#37014760)

The problem with CRM114 is that it let's anything past if you just put 'POE' in the title.

Re:Spam filtering (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014668)

Really? I have no spam filter and am doing fine. Just watch who you give your email addresses. Create an email address for each service, site, etc., and delete any that get spammy.

Re:Spam filtering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014734)

The actual webmail client isn't going to do any of the spam filtering. This can be achieved by simply dropping in spam assassin into the mta.

Ready or Not America, Here Comes Rick Perry (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014372)

Ready or not America, here comes Rick Perry into the presidential race -- the Republican party's new God-talking rock star.

He's not yet officially announced, but when Perry addressed a crowd estimated at 30,000 at Houston's Reliant Stadium at The Response, a Christian prayer event that was his brainchild, the Texas governor positioned himself as a Presidential candidate.

An official announcement at this point seems anti-climactic.

In a 13-minute speech beamed to the audience filling almost half of the stadium seats via three 18-by-24-foot projection screens, Perry frequently invoked God. He spoke of and prayed for challenges facing the nation, including the safety of President Barack Obama and his family, and he talked of the nation more than he zeroed in on Texas, his home state.

Perry is expected to officially announce his campaign for the Republican party's presidential nomination as early as this week. But it was clear as Gov. Perry beamed upon the stage to the adoration of thousands, many who stood and reached out to him as he approached the stage and spoke, that the event in Houston was his true national political coming out party.

Re:Ready or Not America, Here Comes Rick Perry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014582)

Don't worry. We're not yet at the place where a mormon can win the GOP Primary.

LK

Re:Ready or Not America, Here Comes Rick Perry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014592)

I am pretty happy that he runs. Hopefully, he, Bachman, or palin will get the neo-con nod.
Obama vs. the soon to be ex-texas gov.
If so, that guarantees that Obama is in with an easy race.

Go spam elsewhere asshole.

Re:Ready or Not America, Here Comes Rick Perry (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014698)

Don't write off Perry just yet. He has flattened far richer and more eloquent candidates as governor. He also has the same political mechanism that gave W 8 years in office.

Thanks to S&P giving thumbs down on America under Obama's watch, with higher interest rates coming our way, people will be remembering Obama as another Carter, no matter what Obama does, just as people remember Carter for sky-high gas prices and double-digit inflation.

roundcube (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014376)

i use it since three year more polish then squirrelmail and really fast

Re:roundcube (1)

Junta (36770) | about 3 years ago | (#37014610)

Just to add, the interface can be abstracted from the email storage.

Currently, I have both roundcube and squirrelmail exposing my imap mailboxes. I tend to use roundcube, but other users tend to use squirrelmail. There are some capabilities in squirrelmail not in roundcube.

Have a look at hastymail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014380)

As subject says, I've been using hastymail for a while, it's a no-hassle, simple webmail client.
No bells & whistles, yet my users seem to like it - http://www.hastymail.org/

Don't you want it to just work? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014384)

Especially with email, I like the fact that I'm not going to accidentally break something, miss an email and lose my job.

I also like that I'm not updating everything all the time with security updates. Google does all that for me.

I also like the integration between all the services.

I also like the two-factor authentication. (Good luck getting that set up on a self-hosted system, I suppose you could use X.509 on a USB drive or something).

Don't fix what ain't broke.

Re:Don't you want it to just work? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 3 years ago | (#37014604)

Depends.

While yeah, Google does all the grunt-work on the back-end, you still have all the hazards that any SaaS has... and it's not like GMail hasn't had its share of embarrassing security bombs or occasional outages (however brief they may have been) due to either the back-end, or the ISP you use to connect to it.

zimbra (5, Informative)

lampsie (830980) | about 3 years ago | (#37014386)

Grab yourself a Zimbra appliance from http://www.turnkeylinux.org/email [turnkeylinux.org] - up and running in a few minutes, and it should give you most of what you'd expect coming from Gmail.

I second that. (1)

wezelboy (521844) | about 3 years ago | (#37014580)

Zimbra works really well.

iRedMail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014396)

I can recommend http://www.iredmail.org/.
It has a WebMailer, GUI to add new domains and stuff, Spam/Virus checks.
And some more great features.
It's easy to setup, too

Re:iRedMail (2)

tjhart85 (1840452) | about 3 years ago | (#37014436)

He can't use that! It's hosted on Google Code!

Re:iRedMail (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014774)

Yeah, Google probably invented some algorithm which helps place backdoors in hosted projects.

Why (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014398)

Is there a reason you are trying to pave your own road?

ZCS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014402)

Zimbra Collaboration Server (http://www.zimbra.com/)

Here you go (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014404)

You need postfix, fetchmail, procmail, dovecot and squirrelmail.

Worth the hassle (3, Informative)

zeigerpuppy (607730) | about 3 years ago | (#37014754)

There are basically 2 ways: Install an 'appliance' mailserver like zimbra/roundcube Or roll your own. I've been running a personal, small business server for years. It's great being able to give free email addresses to friends and family I would recommend (on debian server): -Postfix smtp with mysql backend and postfixadmin -Dovecot imap -Amavis/spamassassin/clamav for virus/spam filtering Then you can throw on any web based client I like horde but squirrelmail is good too. Horde has good groupware features and the new interface supports some nice ui features. Also consider serverside filtering, horde has a sieve plugin which integrates with Dovecot in a cleaner way than squirrelmail. Setting up a server is non trivial and you'll need to get your head around NAT, firewalls (iptables) and making sure you're not an open relay. However, once it's running it's actually pretty maintenance free (unless you want corporate level security). Good luck! There are some excellent howtos out there. If the above sounds daunting, try an appliance first but there's a lot to be said for rolling your own.

Email is public anyway. (2, Informative)

Xiph1980 (944189) | about 3 years ago | (#37014408)

You do know that whatever email solution you choose, unless you use full encryption in all your email messages, outbound and inbound (good luck with that) it's still pretty much in the open, and anyone who knows what they're doing in the intermittant path, especially your internet provider, can intercept and read (parts of) those emails?
At least google has proven their worth with standing up to the US gov't in stead of just bending over and giving them all plus some extra as some others have.

Re:Email is public anyway. (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 3 years ago | (#37014460)

One wonders why it has to be so public though. You can easily set up secure login and data transfer to your own servers. I would wonder why email servers wouldn't be able to set up secure services for sending mail between them. Sure at one time encryption may have been too much extra work, but now it seems like it would be quite advantageous without having too much extra load on the systems. It would be really nice if you could request a message to be sent using encryption between your mail host and the destination of the mail. Sure, it may or may not be encrypted when it is stored (it could be) but at least nobody could read it as it goes over the wire. They could use the existing ssl infrastructure to easily accomodate secure communication between email servers.

Re:Email is public anyway. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014758)

Uh, look at the headers in one of your mesages. Nowadays, most mail transport agents ("email servers") will use encrypted channels for talking to each other. In a typical 2011 setup, there will be an encrypted connection between the sender's mail user agent and his mail relay, then an encrypted connection between that one and the destination user's mail transport agent, then an encrypted connection between the destination's imap server and his mail user agent.

It's "open" in that this is transport security, not end-to-end encryption. The message is still present in an unencrypted form on each of the systems involved in transmitting it. And none of these steps are guaranteed to be encrypted -- normally, the MTA will just fall back to an unencrypted connection if the other host does not advertise that it can receive encrypted data. But it's not exactly public, either.

Re:Email is public anyway. (1)

qwertyatwork (668720) | about 3 years ago | (#37014768)

pgp, but I guess this is redundant since you mentioned encryption. It's a shame pgp isn't standard for email.

roundcube squirrelmail (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014412)

Roundcube [roundcube.net] looks/feels a lot better than SquirrelMail

Try Zimbra! (2, Insightful)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | about 3 years ago | (#37014418)

My company uses Zimbra [zimbra.com] . It works pretty well for us.

Roundcube (5, Informative)

wolrahnaes (632574) | about 3 years ago | (#37014422)

The best webmail UI I've used other than Gmail is Roundcube [roundcube.net] . It's simple, clean, and works quite well.

Re:Roundcube (2)

booch (4157) | about 3 years ago | (#37014532)

I'm also a big Roundcube fan, and use it on several sites. The nice thing about it is that you can just point it at an IMAP server, and it uses the IMAP server for authentication. It's quite easy to set up, and the GUI is a lot nicer than other competitors, like SquirrelMail.

Zimbra is nice too, but seems to lock you into a full stack of software. (There have been promises of a stand-alone version, but I've never been able to find it.) That might be the right answer for the original poster, but I found it too limiting and inflexible for my needs.

Scalix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014424)

http://www.scalix.com

It's more along the lines of Exchange in terms of features/look, but there's a free version and it's open source. The free, "Community," version only allows 10 accounts the ability to use an email client though (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) - beyond that you have to upgrade to the paid version. I connect to my server with Outlook, Thunderbird, my iPod and my Android.

Postfix+RBLS+DSPAM+Zarafa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014430)

I've recently been looking at Zarafa. Has nice web front end. Can push sync your contacts to mobile devices etc. You can use multiple backends like a DB or LDAP store (LDAP is required for contact syncing apparently). I haven't completed my test setup yet so can't say anything about it other than it looked promising and easier to setup than the alternatives I'd seen like Kolab and friends. I use postfix+barracuda RBLS+greylisting+dspam for spam filtering and I have yet to find anything that even comes close in terms of reducing the amount of spam into my inbox.

your going from Gmail to hosting your own? (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37014442)

Thats a bit of a jump

Just get your self a cute 4.99 a month webhost, they will give you a billion accounts on your domain, webmail (maybe even a roundcube front end which is nice n purdy n smooth) Spam assassin (which works pretty well) and 50 gigs worth of backup space I mean website space

Re:your going from Gmail to hosting your own? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 3 years ago | (#37014766)

Actually, for $10 a month you can get a Dreamhost account which I find is very reliable. They actually give you 50 GB of backup space to do whatever you want to with, which is completely separate from your web space. They have "unlimited" space and transfer on your http directory, but they frown on using that for backup. Which is why they give you the secondary backup location.

Re:your going from Gmail to hosting your own? (1)

hjf (703092) | about 3 years ago | (#37014806)

50 gigs worth of backup space I mean website space

Check your hosting provider's TOS. They don't usually let you use that space for personal backups. Dreamhost doesn't.

The 3rd party solution is the right answer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014444)

You were on the right track, and should continue to use a 3rd party solution for email. The internets doesn't need any more mis-configured email servers as open relays or completely owned as spam bots.
Al aboooooard the clue train, son.

why? (4, Insightful)

mr.dreadful (758768) | about 3 years ago | (#37014450)

As a guy who ran email servers for a small organization, let me say enjoy it while you can, because email admin is a never-ending pain in the butt. The spam management, the 24x7x365 server monitoring for security issues, the blacklisting and DNS issues, and that people get really bitchy when their email service is disturbed in any way.

That being said, I hear nice things about Zimbra.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014544)

it has never been so troublesome for me once I had it all setup correctly, it just a minor admin duty.
most admin stuff around the mail server should be pretty much automated.
keeping out of blacklists is pretty easy.. don't spam.

Re:why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014554)

I have to be frank: Web Mails is nothing but cancer. Crippled shit for retarded lusers.

Here's how to set up your own proper e-mail server, including greylisting and a anti-spam system that is better than Google’s:
http://www.gentoo-wiki.info/Complete_Virtual_Mail_Server/Postfix [gentoo-wiki.info] (The guide is a bit old. But it should work.)

I’m very happy with it and appreciate its power.

Re:why? (1)

guises (2423402) | about 3 years ago | (#37014584)

I set up Zimbra on a server for our office (small office, ~500 emails/day) with CentOS and haven't touched it for a year. No spam management (handled automatically), no excessive security (I use SELinux, for the record, which was a small pain during setup but is fine now), no issues at all.

One thing: Zimbra requires 2 GB of RAM, which is high for an email server. You must have this though, or it will run slow as dirt.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014652)

even if you are hosting ur own for flexability and features i'd still route inbound and outbound mail via a 3rd (internet facing) party to handle the spam, attacks etc problems

Re:why? (2, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | about 3 years ago | (#37014700)

Spot on. I ran my own full mail server for a while. It got old very fast. You really need at least two servers for fail-over and simply the ability to down one while you update the other. (And those two should be geographically separated so power outages don't take out both, etc.) *blech* So in the end what I've done is just have simple pop accounts, and then use fetchmail to pop the mail down to my own IMAP server. If my server goes down, I don't care, the mail just spools up at the ISPs (yes, multiple). If things go totally haywire, I can repoint the clients directly at the pop accounts and keep mail flowing -- of course I give up the convenience of IMAP in that case. Anyway, by outsourcing the core POP account you offload all the DNS issues, can get spam filtering if you want it, and get relief from the 24x7 server(s) health monitoring. I like the increased privacy over having a hosted IMAP service.

Re:why? (3, Informative)

1s44c (552956) | about 3 years ago | (#37014742)

As a guy who ran email servers for a small organization, let me say enjoy it while you can, because email admin is a never-ending pain in the butt. The spam management, the 24x7x365 server monitoring for security issues, the blacklisting and DNS issues, and that people get really bitchy when their email service is disturbed in any way.

I also manage such things. I don't know why you say it's a never-ending pain because that's just not my experience. I use BIND, Postfix+Postgrey, DNSBLs, Spamassassin, ClamAV, SPF, Cyrus, Roundcube, and Nagios monitoring everything. Every now and then I get someone panicking because he hasn't got mail for 4 hours, and every now and then I have to investigate where a specific mail went wrong. Every 2 years or so I rebuild the systems on a newer distro and in the mean time I apply updates as needed. I have learn/spam and learn/ham folders that all users can dump spam and ham in and spamassassin is trained from those. It is work to look after these things but I would not call it a never ending pain in the butt. Most of the time it just works.

I totally agree about people getting bitchy when their email is disrupted in any way. I did have to go to work on xmas day once to reboot a crashed mail server. Guess it serves me right for using an old dell server for a critical service.

Moved off plus? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014456)

Why on earth did you move on to plus if you were planning to dump Google at the altar?

Not Worth it unless you have a very good reason... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014468)

Wanting to get away from google isn't much of a good reason. Properly running a mail server is not a small task. You need to keep it secure, up to date, you need to monitor it to make sure your IP or network does not get on black lists or all of the sudden you will find your mail in people spam folders.

There is a lot to running a mail server properly. Sure you can get a basic one setup on a VPS in a few hours, but do you care if your mail gets delivered?

Running a mail server is not for the inexperienced person period. Running mail servers can be a huge PIA for those of us that have been doing it for 15 years.

A true gmail competitive interface really barely exists today, there are some corporate solutions that come somewhat close, but be ready to hand over thousands of dollars in fees for the software. The open source web mail interfaces are not even close to what gmail does.

I maintain a mail server, manage dozens of domains, and have managed email for thousands of people, I have a pretty good idea what I'm doing at this point. I still use gmail for a lot of stuff myself.

There are reasons to setup your own mail server instead of using gmail, but they mailing come into play for things like running mailing list servers, discussions groups or server side software programs that need to be able to deliver larger amounts of mail than you can pipe through google.

Jamie

Re:Not Worth it unless you have a very good reason (1)

jamiedolan (1743242) | about 3 years ago | (#37014538)

Sorry I forgot to login before I posted this. The above post is mine.

Re:Not Worth it unless you have a very good reason (2)

Junta (36770) | about 3 years ago | (#37014712)

The open source web mail interfaces are not even close to what gmail does.

On this point I have to disagree. gmaill is highly capable and all, but I actually prefer roundcube's interface over gmail's.

I also disagree that maintaining a mail server competently is that hard for a single domain with maybe a half-dozen users. If you stick to packages provided by a linux distribution, distribution updates will handle most security updates. Many ISPs have blessed relays for your use that alleviates the blacklist problem significantly.

That said, I have co confess current state of gmail makes it hard to find reason to do it yourself. The only reason I could think of is fear for what google could do in the future given the fact they really can hold your email address hostage. If you pay for your own domain (using any subdomain like offered by dyndns or co.cc is begging for them to hold your domain hostage down the road (as dyndns already has done to its users), landing you in the same place. Since so many free offerings from other companies have either evaporated or 'altered' in unacceptable ways, it's not unreasonable to be wary of Google's take on the perceived business value of free email with ads. If data suggests the cost is higher than the revenue sometime later, say goodbye to your email.

Re:Not Worth it unless you have a very good reason (1)

jamiedolan (1743242) | about 3 years ago | (#37014778)

On this point I have to disagree. gmaill is highly capable and all, but I actually prefer roundcube's interface over gmail's.

I also disagree that maintaining a mail server competently is that hard for a single domain with maybe a half-dozen users. If you stick to packages provided by a linux distribution, distribution updates will handle most security updates. Many ISPs have blessed relays for your use that alleviates the blacklist problem significantly.

That said, I have co confess current state of gmail makes it hard to find reason to do it yourself. The only reason I could think of is fear for what google could do in the future given the fact they really can hold your email address hostage. If you pay for your own domain (using any subdomain like offered by dyndns or co.cc is begging for them to hold your domain hostage down the road (as dyndns already has done to its users), landing you in the same place. Since so many free offerings from other companies have either evaporated or 'altered' in unacceptable ways, it's not unreasonable to be wary of Google's take on the perceived business value of free email with ads. If data suggests the cost is higher than the revenue sometime later, say goodbye to your email.

I got fairly disgusted with roundcube for a ongoing bug that would cause it to loop and use %100 of the processor power on a box. That was earlier this year, so it may have been fixed but it had been an ongoing bug report for quite a while. I suppose a lot of it depends on the level your running a box at and how much Interaction there is with other networks and why. Running forums that can send out many thousands of notices a day can be a big deal to manage, as you can get filtered fairy easily ever for doing seemingly nothing wrong (e.g. you didn't throttle down your send rate low enough for one network). Your point about gmail taking away an address is very valid and a concern I have pondered. Using your own domain via gmail and backing up your mail solves much of this. As I mentioned though, there are things like forums, mailing lists, and discussion groups, who's volume of mail is not permissible to run through google and you have little choice but to either pay a 3rd party server for their out bound mail service which often has it's own limitations or to run your own server.

I'll probably get lynched for this... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014472)

I'll probably get lynched for this, but we've had great success with SmarterMail. Yes, Windoze, BUT:

-- Given your needs, you don't need anything other than the free version
-- Web interface is VERY mature
-- Includes calendar, contacts, tasks, notes
-- Has Lookout (Outlook) sync capabilities
-- Handles traffic well
-- Spam filtering and virus scanning, out of the box, does a pretty good job
-- Support has been great. A plus since you mention you're not a sysadmin
-- Supports much more - check the product details

If you know how to properly harden and protect a Windows server, you could install this and be up and running in VERY short order! Just another alternative...

Let the flaming begin, of course. it wouldn't be /. without it, for someone like me... LOL

Masochism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014474)

In my opinion, nowadays, running your own server is rarely worth the effort. Inevitably, you'll wind up on one or more back hole lists, or one more major e-mail providers will either not accept mail from your server or will flag it as spam. Have fun trying to work through those problems. Because you represent the interests of only a handful of users, no RBL or sysadmin is going to give you the time of day. Also, keep in mind that 80-90% of every connection made to your server will be from a spammer and some percentage of those connection attempts will be for the express purpose of exploiting a security hole and infecting your machine. I think you're in for some serious heartaches and frustration no matter how wonderful a job you do choosing which software to use.

Courier-IMAP and cPanel (1)

mpol (719243) | about 3 years ago | (#37014476)

For a mail server I very much prefer Courier Imap. There's also Cyrus, which some people favor, but I like the simplicity of Courier.
If you want full blown calendering and groupware, you might look at something else, but that's not what you're asking.

For a mta, most people prefer Postfix, allthough Exim is allright as well.

For configuring your services... At my job we use a VPS from a hosting provider, complete with cPanel. It's a really easy way to get started with it, and add domains and mail addresses.

Re:Courier-IMAP and cPanel (1)

mpol (719243) | about 3 years ago | (#37014506)

Just 10 seconds after posting I figure out you're asking for the web-application. I don't know if there's a Gmail alternative like Gmail. That's very heavy-weight on javascript.
Squirrelmail is rather simple in my opinion. Roundcube is also preferred by a lot of people.
A disadvantage of both of them is there's no mobile version. Horde has a mobile version, but I found it quite hard to set up right.

zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014478)

roundcube is great for email only... but as a replacement for a lot of the gmail services it falls short
i felt the same way as you, and started using zimbra. after a few weeks i decided to buy a subscription which gets me 'active-sync' for mobile devices (email/contacts/calendar)

postfix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014482)

Several years ago I'd have said sendmail, but five years ago I tried postfix and was suitably impressed. We used dovecot and spamassassin and it was a very reliable setup. I moved on from that particular Company and it was still running 6 months later with nobody looking after it! There's some tip-top tutorials online and the usual O'Reilly books are also worthwhile as a reference.

Been doing this for a decade... (3, Informative)

emx (186289) | about 3 years ago | (#37014488)

... and I can safely write that there is no way you will ever achieve anything comparable to gmail.

You can try:
- squirrelmail, ugly and so last century
- openwebmail, old-fashioned Perl webmail, not maintained any longer
- zimbra mail, lots of functionalities and fancy features
- roundcube, decent but nowhere near what you're hoping for

Spam control on the server side is going to be an issue. You will have to use a combination of solutions (e.g. custom sendmail configs, RBL/XBL blacklists, spamassassin, greylisting, procmail rules, smf-spf, j-chkmail) and it will take quite some time and effort to get everything fine-tuned.

For anti-virus, clamav works well

For IMAP I found that dovecot does a decent job. If you want to fetch from remote servers into your own server then fetchmail can do the job.

Usual security considerations apply - patch early, patch often.

You will spend long hours maintaining this, highly recommend using a log colorizer to help watching logs e.g. ccze
In the end you will feel you got a half-baked solution that doesn't even come close to comparing to gmail in terms of functionality, ease of user interface, security and spam control. But hey, it'll be your own stuff.

Maybe not Zimbra (5, Informative)

jra (5600) | about 3 years ago | (#37014490)

I've run Zimbra for 3 years now, back to 5.0.9, which I installed for my then employer. The architectural people there have taken, right along, an attitude that I can characterize only as "RFCs? Who cares about those?"

It doesn't handle fixed-pitch well; its editor won't re-wrap (though they might have finally fixed that in 7), it doesn't uknow from RFC 2369 -- in fact, it handles mailing lists poorly in general; notably, you can't change the Reply-To in any way when replying, if you generally want HTML off (as I do), the only way to turn it on is to dive into the Preferences and switch it, then reload; same turning off...

Check for bugs filed on their bugzilla by jra@baylink.com if you want a full list of the ignominy. But in general, I would say: evaluate it pretty thoroughly to see if you can deal with its crap before deploying.

It's *very* pretty. I just don't know if it's worth the trouble.

Yes - Don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014500)

> Since I'm a hobbyist, not a sysadmin, and I normally outsource my mail servers, what new security considerations do I need to make in managing these services?"

Yeah so you are better off not going this route. You pretty much HAVE to be a 24/7 Linux sysadmin for running your own email.

Also there is the problem of being a little guy. You can do spf, dkim, and look 100% legit but then some larger email systems will sometimes delay your mail or put you as spam because their mail systems will say 'who is this one odd IP that is unknown?'.

And spam - it is such a problem that you can outsource the filtering to mailroute.info but you are going to learn quite a lot about spam, RBLs, filtering.

And you also must learn either exim, postfix, sendmail, etc and know how to configure it securely. A lot of dictionary attacks these days come from attempting pop/imap logins over and over for brute forcing. So you'll want to set up some kind of rate limiting either in Postfix config or with fail2ban.

And running a php web server for webmail - prepared for constant 24/7 scanning, probing, and other attacks trying to poke at your server. :)

Good times,

Re:Yes - Don't (1)

cshark (673578) | about 3 years ago | (#37014676)

You can always set up a your webmail on a private ip subset, or a whitelist dmz using iptables, where only you can access it. That would at least solve the scanning probing problem. Or a private VPN! Yay! Then you're learning about how vpn's work. Like I said, Dante may have known hell. But he did not know email servers at all. They would have scared the shit out of him.

MX forwarding also an option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014508)

A mailserver in an environment where the webserver is the more important of the two can be a liability. I've had postfix cause out of memory errors and bring down mysql/apache on a vps. Spamassassin also uses a fair amount of memory. I'm not a seasoned linux admin, but I will say that I'm much better off after pulling mail services from the webserver and forwarding mail via an MX record to a $25 p/year paid service. Just another option to consider...

Thats funny (5, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 years ago | (#37014526)

For over 15 years, I spent my time doing my own servers. Figured out that I was spending too much time doing server admin and not enough building sand castles. Now, I am on Google.

Re:Thats funny (4, Informative)

Pieroxy (222434) | about 3 years ago | (#37014606)

Same here. I had an online agenda, mail, address book and all that running from my dsl box. Things were fine. Now I am full 100% Google. There is no way anyone is going to approach this level of polish with a 10 foot pole with open source stuff. You can get things done, sure, but it's going to take a heck of a lot of time and the result will be nothing compared to Google. But your data is yours. Can't beat that.

Re:Thats funny (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 3 years ago | (#37014682)

I've had my own self-hosted email for years. Every so often I wonder if it would make sense to "outsource" it all.

Then there was this rash of accounts being hacked on sites like Yahoo and that entirely cured me of any interest in depending on anyone else for this. I may not be the best mail admin out there but at least I don't have a target painted on my forehead. Whatever headache I have from being my own server admin is mitigated by not needing to explain myself to clueless rubes that think I've started spamming them with malware.

Re:Thats funny (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 3 years ago | (#37014814)

Well, and that is understandable. That is also why I continue with a couple of domains and use google applications (though I do the web hosting on rackspace at this time). But, I used to enjoy doing my own server, etc. however, I have decided that I want a family and to focus on start-ups.

Used to have a postfix + mysql + courier-imap + .. (1)

tangent3 (449222) | about 3 years ago | (#37014530)

... + squirrelmail + apache + spamassassin (later switched to dspam)

I used this guide: http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/virt-mail-howto.xml [gentoo.org]

It was great when it started out. It handles multiple domains. Handled spam well. Ran on a low end PC. Handled email for my family and a couple of friends.

Then it became a fucking pain in the ass to maintain. Mainly the spam filtering started failing, and it was a resource drain. Switched from spamassassin to dspam which improved the situation. But dspam was a fucking chore to train the filter.

Eventually I gave up. It took too much of my precious time to manage all the shit on my own and I moved my domains to Google Apps and can't be happier.

Re:Used to have a postfix + mysql + courier-imap + (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 3 years ago | (#37014708)

Training spamassasin is not that big of a deal really. Just automate a process for feeding it new bits of spam to train the filters. You can do this by just designating a standard place for it to look for new examples.

It's Unix. If there are any "chores" then you probably failed to automate something and the solution is probably not that hard.

jklf;asdfj;a (-1, Offtopic)

haruchai (17472) | about 3 years ago | (#37014568)

lkjdsafj;dklas

Re:jklf;asdfj;a (1)

theskipper (461997) | about 3 years ago | (#37014782)

Is that Klingon for "stick with Gmail"?

reverse dns nightmare (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014572)

If you want to run your own mail server you will have a problem, you will need a reverse ip resolution for your domain. Without this, your outgoing mail will be marked as spam, many big companies do so, for example Google. Without this your mail will go directly to spam folder.
Good luck with your ISP.

You don't want to do this. (4, Insightful)

cshark (673578) | about 3 years ago | (#37014576)

The whole beauty of gmail isn't that you get a lot of neat features. It's the fact that your email almost always gets from point a to point b. This is because you have the luxury of being on a "big" mail server. Smaller mail servers, like one that you or I would set up do not get special treatment. The whole system right now is stacked against small mail servers. The minute you hit operation, you'll find that you might already be on spam lists, and that you have to fight to get yourself off of them. The minute you find that you're off the lists, you'll probably end up back on them because someone three ip addresses away has been sending welcome emails from his web site, and someone forgot that they asked for one.

If none of that scares you, the following list will get you close to what gmail can do.

So here is what you need first and foremost:

1. A dedicated server just for Zimbra with Domain Keys installed
2. A block of 24-32 ip numbers. (49 ip numbers would be ideal, but it's harder to buy odd blocks like that.) Put your mail server as close to the middle of that range as possible. It sounds like a lot, but most collocation facilities can hook you up with this for 300-500 usd a month.
3. Proactive attention to getting your ip block removed from all spam lists (especially Barracuda, their list is the most annoying for the high number of false positives) before the fact. Just let them know you exist.
4. Pray that all of the hundreds of moving pieces you've just put in place don't break, that bad hackers don't brute force their way into your server. Strong passwords don't really help as much as people tell you they do either. That's now something you have to worry about too.

So there you go.
It doesn't make sense to me that you would try to do this for something that only you would use.
The expense is too high, and the benefit just isn't there.

Over the last few years, I've been offloading my email to the social networks and blogs. Facebook, Linked In, personal Drupal installations, Twitter, etc.

They don't have a lot of the core problems that email has, and pretty much everyone I communicate with will use one or multiples of those.

For everything else, I use Gmail for domains because, even if I end up upgrading and paying per account... it's still less of a headache than the Dante inspired hell that is managing my own email server.

I hate running fucking email servers.
Hate them.
Hate.
Hate.
Hate.

There. I feel better now.

Re:You don't want to do this. (1)

jamiedolan (1743242) | about 3 years ago | (#37014636)

+1 Though only the really crappy black lists are blocking whole IP ranges and less and less people seem to be following those blacklists, at least for domestic IP ranges. Jamie

Re:You don't want to do this. (1)

cshark (673578) | about 3 years ago | (#37014752)

Every time I let myself get roped into managing an email server, it's Barracuda that I always have the most trouble with.

They're unresponsive, slow, and mean. The reason it's a problem is because of the high number of Barracuda firewalls that are out there at the moment. Companies large and small use them. Barracuda firewalls are evil. Pure evil. They serve no productive purpose, and have features that when enabled cost companies millions of dollars in lost productivity. They cover the whole spectrum of web services running from web to email, to pretty much anything else. If you've ever felt the pain of working for a company that has one of these disruptive internet molesters installed, you'll understand.

Anyway,
The easiest way to get a timely response, and yourself removed from their list is to write their removal department a pissy email where you call them idiots, and threaten legal action. Works beautifully.

Mod Parent Up (1)

KingRobot (703860) | about 3 years ago | (#37014724)

Self hosting your e-mail is going to be a nightmare; primarily due to the spam and security issues noted above. If you do continue to peruse this effort, you will run into the following: 1. Problems filtering incoming spam 2. Problems with outgoing e-mail not being delivered (incorrectly blocked because "they" don't know/care about you) 3. Problems with ensuring proper security (not rocket science, but much more difficult than just setting a good password) ... and you haven't even touched your webmail UI yet. Personally, if it's the "sandcastle on google's beachfront" problem that you're worried about, simply make sure you have a good backup of your gmail, and an account with a second major email provider that you can fall back on, and you're good to go.

Re:You don't want to do this. (1)

SJS (1851) | about 3 years ago | (#37014812)

The minute you hit operation, you'll find that you might already be on spam lists, and that you have to fight to get yourself off of them. The minute you find that you're off the lists, you'll probably end up back on them because someone three ip addresses away has been sending welcome emails from his web site, and someone forgot that they asked for one.

It's partially a matter of what you want to deal with, and how comfortable you are with making some issues somebody else's problem. Set up your own system. Tell friends, family, and employers your new set of email addresses.

If they can't send you email because you're on some blacklist, have *them* tell *you* how to get off that blacklist.

Follow these instructions once, if reasonable.

After that, tell them that their mail server is broken, and it's their problem, not yours. Then stop worrying about it. "YOUR service put ME on a blacklist without cause. YOU should use a better service if you want to hear from me."

Online vendors are even better. They have an incentive to make sure they receive email from you. If they use a blacklist service that drops you... take your business elsewhere. Call them if they have a 1-800 number to tell them about the issue of you're feeling nice.

Part of the problem here is that a lot of people have set up email servers for a commercial enterprise, and they bring home the set of best practices and habits -- so that when they set up their home system, they forget that it isn't a commercial system.

Remember, telling a friend, relative, or business "*Your* system is rejecting my RFC-complaint emails. *You* should look into fixing that if you want to hear from me." is perfectly acceptable, even though a business telling you exactly the same thing isn't.

Why #2? (4, Insightful)

theNAM666 (179776) | about 3 years ago | (#37014578)

The previous "why" poster has it right. It's like you're complaining about success. You are never going to do it 50 percent as well as Google. -- don't try. Rolling your own is an academic exercise. Zimbra is ok-- if you can live in the 90s. Google is it. Just backup your data.

Re:Why #2? (1)

cshark (673578) | about 3 years ago | (#37014642)

Well said.

Not self-hosted, but emailsrvr.com works for us. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014596)

I think they just do email, and we pay them, so the hope is they are
interested in keeping us happy. IMAP from firefox works, and the web
front end is functional. Now if I could just get everyone to use https:

INEEDITALL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014600)

To my knowledge there is no gmail clone running around on the interwebs. However, most of Gmail's feature's are just redressed versions of things that already exist. Labels = Folders, Star = Important/Color, etc.... you should really should say what is important to you. (For me, it would be the hot keys which I find extremely handy)

Once you settle on which features are important then it is time to go looking for a package. Many seasoned and solid projects have already been named. Left from the list seems to be Open Xchange and Horde/IMP. Imp is going to be the vanilla webmail/calendar client while Xchange attempts to be an exchange replacement. Setup is not for the faint of heart, but it does offer an outlook connector once the deed is done.

Zimbra looks awesome btw, but I haven't had any experience with it. In the end, I always tend to dig around freshmeat and sourceforge to see what new projects have come about.

As far as building a home server and what to look out for... assume the internet is your enemy and go from there.

Other Direction (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | about 3 years ago | (#37014634)

I know this isn't what your question is, and I respect your reasons (even though I don't understand them), but I think you'll find that most admins are going in the other direction. Email is something that should just work. When you host it yourself, you have to worry about a ton of factors... spam, incoming, outgoing, forwarding, being sure your mail isn't getting filtered by recipients' services (which requires a surprising amount of work from the default installations of most self-host services, though the spf entry in your dns is recommended regardless of what you use). I've moved all of my sites to google apps email. It's so so so much easier. Plus you get the awesome gmail interface, and you don't have to worry about your configuration.

@Mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014644)

@mail is a commercial product. Has calendars, mobile sync, etc.

Atmail (1)

eachy (2427700) | about 3 years ago | (#37014670)

I too am trying to host my own services locally rather than in the cloud. I'm using www.tonido.com for file/photo sharing and music streaming and plan to use atmail for mail. atmail.org has the free version. atmail.com is the commercial version.

You want... (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 3 years ago | (#37014680)

...these guys:
http://fastmail.fm/ [fastmail.fm]

I think their staff frequent /., at least they have in the past. I'm not using them yet, but I keep the link handy for the day when I get kicked off my current server.

Two good choices follow (1)

amn108 (1231606) | about 3 years ago | (#37014694)

You have at least two good choices:

1. You rent a Linux host, point a domain name to it, and set up your own email accounts on that domain by means of installing the relevant email software stack like IMAP/POP3 service etc. You host - your rules - you can set up your own spam filters, rules, actually you can do so much my rambling cannot even cover half of it. You certainly can install some form of web interface to access your mail on it.

2. You do the same as above, but instead of renting, you just set up a box in wherever you live, make sure it stays always-on, make sure it's reachable to the world and use a public dynamic DNS service to make sure the domain name points to it so that you can set up the software as with point 1. The benefits are that it's for total control freaks, and it includes many benefits of point 1. The cons are well... it's your hardware, so you maintain and run it!

There are many hosting companies that will give you a nice virtual CentOS Linux with plenty of computing power for a fraction of average monthly income. If you think it costs too much, imagine that later on your box can be your face to the world - install a Diaspora POD on it (if it ships hehe), web server for you and your family, friends, projects, compute stuff, rent it out if it stays idle enough...

I use Kerio Connect, not quite open, though (1)

jht (5006) | about 3 years ago | (#37014696)

Kerio Connect is based on a lot of open-source technologies, and they do contribute back - but it is in itself a commercial product. For a small number of users, though, it's still a good value for those looking to DIY.

(disclaimer: Though I'm a user of it, I'm also a fairly large reseller by Kerio standards and my business gets a lot of our revenue from it)

The minus of Kerio is that it's commercial software and therefore not roll-your-own in nature. Limited tinkering is available. And to get updates after year 1, there's a subscription charge. The webmail is good but a little dated compared to some of the latest stuff out there.

The pluses, though, are these (in my non-biased opinion):

- Good antispam tech (blacklists, SpamAssassin, Bayes filtering). Not state-of-the-art, but traps most of it.
- Uses built-in Sophos engine and/or your own AV for filtering
- Easy to administer with web GUI, plus it's extensible with an API.
- Mail and config files are stored in plain text and can be accessed and edited by hand if needed.
- Supports native client for pretty much everything (Outlook, Mac apps, Sunbird and Thunderbird, etc.). Supports IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV.
- Integrates with AD or OD if needed
- Supports ActiveSync and if you have a Windows server it can support Blackberries (you have to run BES to do that, and BES is Windows-only)
- Easy to manage SSL, and it'll automatically use SSL for SMTP transfers if the target server supports it as well (so you get encrypted transmission)
- Runs on Mac, Windows, or Linux. Plus it comes as a pre-packaged VM for VMware or Parallels for appliance use. That's kind of handy.
- Scales well. It'll go from 5 to 1000 users pretty well on good-enough hardware. My largest client on it has an Xserve with an SSD boot drive and a RAID 1 mirror to support 1000 users.

They'll give you a 30-day trial if you want for free. And if you try it and like it, feel free to buy it from someone other than me - I don't get referral fees or anything for that but I'm not pimping it on my own behalf here.

Office365 (1)

wowwser (730987) | about 3 years ago | (#37014714)

Office365 On Premise, Off Premise, Hybrid #emp

Take a look at Kolab (1)

bflong (107195) | about 3 years ago | (#37014728)

We used to run Kolab at the office until we switched to Google Apps. It wasn't bad.

Kerio (1)

mea_culpa (145339) | about 3 years ago | (#37014748)

Kerio Connect [kerio.com] . Can be free if you become a partner and have less than 5 users or $540 which is still a great deal IMO due to the ease of administration and being able to set it up in mere minutes with very little effort. You very well could spend many times this in effort trying to do it yourself with a free product.

100% configurable via intuitive web GUI
Multi-platform (Windows, Linux, Mac, VMWare)
Very good multiple anti-spam features
Full featured webmail, very near parity with MS Outlook.
ActiveSync support for Andorid, WinMo, iOS (Push mail, contacts, calendar) Optional Blackberry connector.
Multi-domain support
Near instant phone support with actual engineers (if licensed)
Very active development with easy to apply updates
Tons of other features.

Download the fully functional free trial and give it a spin.
I don't mean to sound like an advertisement but I have been using this product for 5 years and it has been the easiest mail server I have ever managed.

What's your reasoning? (1)

dstillz (704959) | about 3 years ago | (#37014788)

Why are you doing this?

I guarantee you that any self-hosted system will have more downtime, and more overall management time than just sticking with Google or another provider.

I wouldn't put the e-mail server and the Web/database server on the same machine. In fact, if you're going to do this right, you probably want a mail server in a datacenter that does nothing but receive the incoming mail and hold it back in case your local e-mail server is down. And once you've done that, you might as well be using a "cloud" e-mail provider.

That said, I have used Zimbra, and it works. I will also support the recommendation of Roundcube.

I'll get tarred and feathered for this but (1)

Pop69 (700500) | about 3 years ago | (#37014794)

have you considered Exchange ?

cPanel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37014800)

Depends on what you mean self-hosted, as in, you pay for the host? Managed Hosting with cPanel. Use Horde or CubeMail or SquirrelMail and has SpamAssassin, DomainKeys etc. If your host isn't pathetic it works well for families or small businesses so it's trivial to 'setup' and use.... I wonder how many sysadmins I just made cringe with this post :)

I'm confused... (1)

pongo000 (97357) | about 3 years ago | (#37014810)

...because in one breath, story submitter says he/she is ready to host his/her own email server, then the very next breath he/she is talking about hosted solutions.

My recommendation? If you can't figure out what it means to "host my own email servers" as opposed to "outsource my mail servers," you should probably just stick with Gmail or another hosted provider.

That said, I'll play: I've been hosting my own e-mail servers for 15 years now. That's 15 years of SpamAssassin tweaking, 15 years of qmail vs. postfix vs. exim, 15 years of weathering DDOS and joejob attacks. I'm currently running an exim server on my DMZ that simply accepts inbound/outbound e-mail, and I use ODMR and fetchmail to get my mail on intervals from behind my firewall.

Running an e-mail server is not for the faint of heart (especially for self-proclaimed "hobbyists"). If I were starting at this new without benefit of hindsight, I'd definitely consider a hosted e-mail solution.

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