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Ask Slashdot: Self-Hosted Gmail Alternatives? 554 554

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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Ask Slashdot: Self-Hosted Gmail Alternatives?

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  • Re:why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dbc (135354) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @12:17PM (#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? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @12:42PM (#37014906) Homepage

    I've hosted my own email for the past 15 years, and I simply don't see the problem you're describing at all. Spam is well handled by spamassassin. I've never had blacklisting or DNS issues. With just YOU controlling everything, and not multiple people, the change management problems are minimal. If you choose software with a proven track record, then the security problems become minimal. Install all your software from a linux distribution with multi-year support, turn on auto-updates, and the security problems mostly go away from all but the most dedicated and skilled attackers. You're a lot less juicy of a target than say Google, so the skilled attackers don't really care about you anyway. If it's just YOUR email, then the people getting bitchy is just you. I'd never host email for someone else. The only real issues are when the internet connection is down. Even then, you can get to any old mail, but new mail obviously doesn't come in. Even that you could fix with a low priority mx record pointed to a gmail account.

    The one thing I would caution is you need to know what the hell you're doing. The OP said he was "a hobbiest and not a system admin". Well, if you want to host your own email, you'll soon learn the skills to be a real system administrator, (or give up and go back to hosting).

  • by discord5 (798235) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @03:20PM (#37016168)

    Personally I've had a lot of success with Sendmail/Cyrus IMAP/IMSP/Squirrelmail and friends, despite enduring jeers from other sysadmins who think they have a better combination. In the end, it doesn't matter. They all suck. They all need patching regularly. They all break. They all need tweaking on a regular basis.

    This! Even on the software side of things, it's constant fiddling and tinkering. I spent about 7 or 8 years administrating qmail and postfix. If it wasn't Spamassassin or the anti-virus going haywire, there would be some other issue. Some braindead mope setting his password to something ridiculous resulting in a flurry of spam sent out a week later, some guy infecting his laptop with something nasty and sending out a fuckton of spam... A bug in all the shit that glues qmail, spamassassin and the anti-virus together that generates a veritable shitstorm of bounce messages to yourself, resulting in more bounce messages to yourself until finally the queue is stuffed with bounce messages...

    Of course, nothing would be complete without the mail queue going corrupt. And once that happens you know you'll be making a tarball of that sucker and cleaning it as fast as possible to get it back online. After that you get do something fun, that's digging through the mailqueue with some obscure shell script from some guy who actually had this very rare thing happen to him too that one time, only with just a small difference, so it won't work out of the box of course. Oh, don't worry, at times like these there will be absolutely nobody breathing down your neck, especially not the person who told you to go F*** yourself when you suggested that it might be a good idea to not be so dependent on a single mail server.

    Then the final turd in the swimming-pool: spam.

    And the problem with spam is : once you've mitigated the issue you just KNOW that by this time next month you'll be at it again and again and... And then there's the problem of false positives. If someone so much as suspects having a false positive there's hell to pay. "You marked this as spam but this is an actual e-mail". Not "The mailserver marked this as..." but YOU.

    various blackhole lists that occasionally start rejecting mail indescriminately

    Oh, don't worry, the foam you have at the mouth that day can be reused in meetings about why the mailserver was rejecting all incoming e-mails.

    the only time your clients contact you will be to ask why the mail is so slow and why there's so much spam

    Or why they can't send out an attachment of 4GB, why their mailbox is full, why their mail from isn't coming through, ... Oh don't worry, deep down you know by the sheer volume of mail you handle daily your users love you.

    put on a blackhole list for being a spammer. That's really fucking harsh the first time.

    That was the breaking point for me. I simply gave the mailserver an IP in a range that wasn't blacklisted and started looking for a new job. On my way out I congratulated the guy who was promoted to the new mail admin and whistled a merry tune as I shut the door behind me. I vowed never to touch mailservers again in my life and became a better person because of it.

    Take this advice and heed it well : Unless you have a REALLY good reason to do your own e-mail, just fucking don't. I'm sure that a lot of people are going to say "Run qmail", "Run postfix" or "Run sendmail" or whatever and point you towards a lot of incredible HOWTOs, but the truth is that's just the beginning of it, and it will slowly devour more and more of your time until one day somewhere between 10PM and 1AM you're upgrading some part of the mailserver again and wondering to yourself : "What happened? I used to do so many cool and interesting things..."

    If you don't want to deal with Google, find a reliable company you want to deal with and have them do it for you. Running a decent mailserver is just a pain in the ass.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson