Product review: Complete internet e-mail solution for NT

Sendmail for NT, Version 3.0, brings a complete Internet e-mail hosting solution built on the functionality of the Sendmail 8.9.3 mail transfer agent (MTA) from Unix to the Windows NT platform. This enables e-mail service providers, including Internet service providers offering POP3 e-mail services to subscribers and corporations needing an MTA to handle routing functions between a variety of different messaging systems, to run Sendmail as their MTA without requiring a Unix server or Unix administration skills.

The Sendmail 8.9.3 MTA, at the heart of Sendmail for NT, is ported from the open-source Sendmail MTA for Unix. The resulting commercial product is an extremely powerful, easily customisable, complete POP3 e-mail solution that, at $US10 or less per mailbox, is not only a very good value in its own right, but also lowers administrative costs via a Web browserbased interface and configuration wizard that simplify setup and maintenance.

Sendmail for NT includes the Sendmail 8.9.3 MTA, a message store, a mailing list server, and a POP3 server. In addition to the configuration wizard, Version 3.0 adds new anti-spam features that reduce the cost of controlling unsolicited e-mail, and integrates more fully optimized source libraries that improve POP3 server performance when handling incoming messages.

The new anti-spam features include relay control options that specify which hosts and domains can use the MTA as a relay. An Access database file specifies domains, users, or IP ranges that are allowed or denied entry into the MTA. In addition, the use of Mail Abuse Prevention System's Real-time Blackhole List provides ongoing checks against this centralised spam blacklist.

The list server function allows administrators to create automated mailing lists that can contain subscribers from any domain. The primary function of the list server is to receive a message sent to the list address and distribute it to all the subscribers. The auto responder function allows administrators to create automated response profiles that are associated with a particular e-mail address. A profile defines the contents and timing of the automated response. The reply can be a single message or a set of scheduled messages. Each message can contain multiple attachments.

I installed Sendmail on a server running Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 5. The installation went very smoothly, taking less than 15 minutes. The browser-based configuration utility and wizard made it possible to have the e-mail service running in no time. Because the options are presented in a logical order and are supported by context-sensitive online help, an NT engineer or an e-mail administrator with NT experience should be able to configure the e-mail server quickly and easily. Setting up Sendmail for NT is easier than setting up open source versions, which require configuring and compiling the Sendmail 8.9.3 source code.

The documentation is very clear and easy to understand, and the online help files are very good at providing detailed information on each option.

I found that a good working knowledge of DNS comes in very handy when installing and configuring this product. The manual provides an overview of DNS for those who want a refresher. The DNS service can either be running on the same server as Sendmail for NT or on another server in the same NT domain.

Sendmail for NT offers improved performance, anti-spam controls, a straightforward browser-based interface, and an installation wizard that makes it easy to configure a bulletproof Internet e-mail hosting solution. This product deserves serious consideration from any ISP or enterprise providing POP3 e-mail services.

Gregory Michael, a former e-mail manager, is now a systems architect in Minneapolis. He can be reached at gjmichael@mediaone.net.

THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD

Sendmail for NT, Version 3.0

Summary: Sendmail for NT gives ISPs and corporations a complete, scalable, and customisable e-mail hosting solution. The browser-based interface makes configuration straightforward without requiring detailed knowledge of all options.

Business Case: As a means for routing mail between disparate messaging systems in large enterprises, Sendmail has no peer. This NT version is much easier to configure than open-source Unix versions.

Pros:

+ Browser-based interface

+ Anti-spam functionality

+ Improved POP3 performance

+ Excellent online help

Cons:

- Configuration wizard automates only basic configurations- No discussion of anti-spam features and settings in the manualCost: Starts at $495 per 50 mailboxes. Prices scale based on the number of mailboxes and servers.

Platform(s): Windows NT 4 with Service Pack 5Sendmail Inc.; Emeryville, California; +1-877-363-6245; http://www.sendmail.com

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