Setting Up a Dedicated Mail Server - A Solution Proffered
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A shared mail package has obvious cost benefits, and is an inexpensive way of being online with the benefits of multiple features such as help and support, as well as web-based administration and access from all over the world. When you start getting some heavy traffic as all your optimization and great content starts paying off, however, a shared server cannot handle several tens of thousands of emails. Now imagine that your database is segmented into different sections and times, some daily emails, some weekly, perhaps some monthly email (an illustration is the Developer Shed weekly newsletter, however the scripts update has a daily update). Not every one is a mega website, but I believe it's safe to say that's where many web masters would like to find themselves.
A lot of web hosts do offer dedicated mail servers on request, but generally they require a level of knowledge which is higher than that needed for a shared server. This is because some administration features will need to be enabled to optimize for security, spamming and sending; a lot of things have to be done from your end, and in some circumstances, your system administrator will have to keep an eye out for security threats and software updates himself.
Setting it up
Note that it takes the same process to set up a dedicated mail server for your web host as it does to set it up on your own machine. After getting your server machine, you buy/choose which software to go with it, either Linux or Windows. When you want to use Windows you buy both Windows Server OS (for some really high price) and then you buy Windows Exchange Server. Note that depending on your host, you either buy the software or they combine the cost in hidden charges with your hosting and support.
You can certainly buy/download Linux-based software. Enterprise editions come with support; open source is exactly the same but you get no support from the vendor whatsoever. However, if your administrator has experience with Linux- based software (and preferably is passionate about it) you can install open source versions and skip those bills altogether.
Most hosting packages that offer dedicated mail servers offer different versions of Microsoft Exchange Enterprise, which comes with Outlook as default software. Once you pick Windows as your OS of choice, the additional software comes as a must. If you pick Linux you have options ranging from SuSe, Mandrake, Red Hat and Novell. Novell however has options that make it compatible with most commonly used email software (such as Outlook) and has interconnectivity with Windows Exchange Server as well (receivers of your email will think it is powered by Microsoft Exchange software). Savvy users use Linux since it gives their site admin more control and flexibility.
Linux OS also comes with an exchange version and software by default. It will come with a range of (free) exchange software. From this point with your host you are pretty much on your own, so the same thing you would do with your physical server is what you will do for your remote server. Some common versions that come with Novell include Exim, Postfix and Courier; any of the three would be adequate. According to a survey done in late 2006 by http://www.mailchannels.com/, Postfix is the most commonly used of the three.
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