The MailSite range is a family of SMTP/POP/IMAP email servers, which comes in four flavours: "SE" (for SMEs), "LE" (large businesses), "SP" (service providers) and "NS" (for HP Non-Stop servers). The features are largely the same between versions, with the exception that the LE, SP and NS incarnations are able to operate in a clustered array (to permit redundancy) and use a back-end database server instead of a file-based repository to store their data. We ran up the SE version on a 1GHz PIII-based server running Windows 2000 SP4. The installer is a standard-looking Microsoft MSI, and the default options have all but the F-Secure anti-virus product pre-selected. We had a slight problem, in that the system doesn't check to see if there's already an SMTP service running on the server (in our case we had the standard Windows SMTP service turned on), but it was quickly spotted and disabled, at which point the MailSite package started to answer mail requests. The system is managed from the MailSite Console, which can administer a number of boxes if required (essential if you're running the LE/SP/NS versions in a cluster). The control panel takes the usual two-pane approach, with a list of what you can do on the left and the detail of the item you're looking at on the right. Each server that is managed is split into two sections: "Server", for managing the server-wide aspects of the configuration; and "Domains" for dealing with individual email domains. Server-wide facilities include site aliasing (mapping mail destined for domain A onto domain B), routing (sending all mail destined for a given domain to a particular mail server), mailbox quotas (limiting the size of mailboxes) and applying banners (inserting extra text) to messages as they pass through the server. The biggest section in the setup area, though, is labelled "Security"; here you can define a range of anti-hacker devices such as SMTP authentication, relay prevention, forcing reverse lookups of the addresses of sending mail servers, passing mail off to the anti-virus package for verification, and limiting the number of connections from any external mail server in order to avoid DoS attacks. Spam by the score
There's also an extensive anti-spam feature called the ActiveState Scanning Engine, which sits on top of the standard relay prevention stuff and uses a variety of heuristic techniques to give a spam "score" to each message and then decide whether to accept or reject each message. The scanning engine is based on scripts and rules, and you can import new scripts (as they are developed in response to the discovery of new attack types) or even use the built-in script editor to write your own if you're feeling adventurous. The company has made a sensible choice in the ActiveState engine – it's an established anti-spam mechanism maintained by a number of people and organisations, not a homegrown one that you have to rely on MailSite to keep up to date. Alongside the scanning engine sits a Directory Harvest Attack Protection (DHAP) system, which keeps an eye on the recipient addresses that are being attempted and smells a rat if it seems that a remote computer is attempting to guess valid email addresses. The rest of the server-wide features are pretty straightforward; you can turn on and off the various services (so if you don't use IMAP, you'd want to disable it) as well as defining system parameters such as the intervals for retrying messages in the event of a delivery problem. The "plug-ins" section is worth a quick mention, because it's in here that the links between MailSite and the Windows user list (and the database-based user list if you're using the high-end versions) exists, along with a box that you can tick to force the system to create a new mailbox whenever a new Windows user is created. The "Domains" section of the configuration screen deals with the individual mail domains. Each domain can have aliases (so you could create mycompany.com and make mycompany.co.uk an alias to it, instead of having to create users in each of the two domains) and you can configure properties for each individual mailbox if you wish (so you could permit some users to use IMAP and others to use only POP/SMTP, for example). The anti-spam features mentioned earlier under the Server configuration section can be customised on a per-domain or per-mailbox basis, which is useful if you want to be stricter with some domains/mailboxes than with others since you can set the basics up on a server-wide basis and then tweak the special cases further down the tree. WAP interface
We've concentrated on the configuration application because the actual mail server side of the program just sits there and chugs happily along. It is worth mentioning a couple of extra bits that are visible to the user. First is the Web Console, which is a Web-based interface that listens on port 90 by default (you can change it if you wish) and allows a mailbox owner to log in and change his or her personal preferences – their location information, for instance, or their password. Second is MailSite Express, which is a common-or-garden WebMail application that lets you read, compose and file messages from a Web browser (there's a task manager and address book built in too, though these only really become useful if you buy the MailSite Team package which interfaces Outlook into the MailSite groupware functions) as you'd expect, there are also screens in the Web interface that allow you to change settings such as spam control). The final thing we should mention is MailSite Pocket – a WAP-oriented alternative to the Express interface. MailSite is an attractive and simple-to-use mail system. It seems to interface sensibly with the Windows directory structure, whilst giving you the option of maintaining a separate database if you so prefer. It supports all the protocols you need, the security options are extensive, and the anti-spam and anti-virus integration both seem sensibly done.

OUR VERDICT

The main consideration when purchasing corporate email servers is how it'll integrate with your desktop applications: it's all very well using a bog-standard SMTP/POP server, but you lose the groupware functionality if your users use Outlook, and so the usual choice is to plump for Microsoft Exchange instead. Package such as MailSite offer an interesting alternative, though, as they can integrate with Outlook via a plug-in – albeit at extra cost for the Team application in MailSite's case.