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Kerio MailServer 6 review


Small businesses looking for an easier option than Exchange will find this simple mail server highly suitable. It has a well-designed webmail client and useful anti-spam measures.

Review Date: 23 Nov 2004

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: exc VAT for 20 users

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Kerio has Microsoft firmly in its sights. The company believes that its MailServer 6 software is a far better bet for smaller businesses, arguing that Exchange is 'big, bulky and, for most SMEs, a sledgehammer to crack a nut'. It's true that Exchange can be overly complex for a small user base, but MailServer is pitching in a market that's already overcrowded. However, when we looked at the previous version in Enterprise over a year ago, we felt that it already had the makings of an Exchange alternative, so what does this latest version improve on?

MailServer still has the added advantage that virtually any Windows platform can act as a host and there are also versions for Linux and Mac OS X. We found MailServer worked fine on our Windows Server 2003 domain controller. A simple wizard gets you started by asking for information about your mail domains, administration security and file locations and offers options to create users and groups. The product consists of three main components. The engine runs as a background task while a service monitor utility and administration console provide a status check and access for configuration respectively.

The administrative interface is similar to that presented by Ipswitch's IMail Server 8 (see issue 110, p204) and is just as tidy. A tree structure to one side lists all functions for quick access, and selecting one brings up all relevant information in the pane to the right. It's just as easy to create users. Extensive controls allow you to add them to groups, create individual forwarding lists and, more importantly, apply quotas that limit physical disk space and the number of messages that can be stored. Password controls can be implemented, accounts disabled and enabled, and you can decide whether to permit access to mail using a WAP-enabled phone.

Kerio goes even further with its assault on Microsoft, as the greatly improved WebMail is now offered as an Outlook replacement. The PHP-driven host component doesn't require IIS, is installed by default and the client end does indeed offer a very similar interface that includes full calendar and contact management facilities. The interface has seen some major improvements over the previous version and includes a spellchecker and access to client settings on the host server.

Anti-spam measures come courtesy of SpamEliminator, which scores messages, adds X-Headers for further processing and discards, returns or forwards suspect messages. Virus protection from McAfee ups the yearly cost to £399 for 20 users, but MailServer can also integrate with a number of other anti-virus packages including Symantec, Sophos and GriSoft, should these already be installed. A separate filter tool also allows you to block specific mail attachments, and there are plenty of actions that can be applied to messages that fail these tests. Status and activity logs are very detailed, with pie charts showing storage and anti-virus activity along with real-time graphs of mail activity spread across two hours up to one month.

From our own experiences with Exchange we certainly agree that MailServer 6 is a more cost-effective alternative for small businesses. It's easy to use, with plenty of features and a particularly good webmail client. But also check out Ipswitch's IMail Server, as it looks just as good value.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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