This article is a pre-release chapter in the upcoming “Take Control of OS X Server,” by Charles Edge, scheduled for public release later in 2014. Apart from Chapter 1: Introducing OS X Server, and Chapter 2: Choosing Server Hardware, these chapters are available only to TidBITS members; see “Take Control of OS X Server” Streaming in TidBITS for details.
Despite the constant claims about how email is dead (to be replaced by instant messages, Facebook, Twitter, iMessage, or whatever), there is no communication medium more important than email to most organizations. Even people who claim they don’t use email much get testy when they miss an important message or can’t log in for some amount of time. Email is important.
It’s also simple—the SMTP, IMAP, and POP protocols on which email relies have been around for decades, and there’s not much to maintaining the database of user and message information. In OS X Server, enabling all the Unix apps that provide mail services under the hood is merely a matter of clicking an ON button and twiddling a few checkboxes.
But there’s a huge catch. Email is an ecosystem—no mail server can stand on its own, because it must be willing to accept messages from anywhere on the Internet and be capable of sending to anywhere. And due to spammers and other nogoodniks, every email server on the Internet is constantly being bombarded with spam, viruses, and malware, often sent by zombie computers marching in massive international botnets. And don’t get me started about dealing with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, having your server used to relay spam, or the massive blowback that happens when one of your users’ email addresses is used as the return address for spam. As I said in an earlier chapter, email is a toxic hellstew, and I strongly recommend you avoid running your own mail server. I don’t, not any more.
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