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Thread: Setting up a mail server?

  1. #1
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    Question Setting up a mail server?

    Lately, I've been seriously considering setting up my own email server using a program like hMailServer on Windows or Dovecot on Linux. Considering this because I can't find any email provider that would suit all of my preferences, at least not without paying. Looking for POP3/IMAP/SMTP support so I can use a third-party email client like Thunderbird or OE Classic (yes, this would even allow me to check my email on some of my vintage computers if I really wanted to, since I do believe there are some POP3 email clients for Windows 3.1 and 9x) and a basic level of privacy (namely, I don't want companies profiling me using my emails and using that profile to target me with ads).

    Does anyone here have some experience with setting up their own email server? If so, any advice? What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a custom email server? If setting up an email server turns out to not be viable, can anyone recommend an alternative email provider?
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by TH2002 View Post
    Lately, I've been seriously considering setting up my own email server using a program like hMailServer on Windows or Dovecot on Linux. Considering this because I can't find any email provider that would suit all of my preferences, at least not without paying. Looking for POP3/IMAP/SMTP support so I can use a third-party email client like Thunderbird or OE Classic (yes, this would even allow me to check my email on some of my vintage computers if I really wanted to, since I do believe there are some POP3 email clients for Windows 3.1 and 9x) and a basic level of privacy (namely, I don't want companies profiling me using my emails and using that profile to target me with ads).

    Does anyone here have some experience with setting up their own email server? If so, any advice? What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting up a custom email server? If setting up an email server turns out to not be viable, can anyone recommend an alternative email provider?
    Basic advice:- Don't fo it.
    If you have a dynamic IP you are pretty much foo barred.
    Most providers block SMTP outbound.

    Can I suggest GMX.COM. Your data is stored in Germany so enhanced privacy. Reasonable mailbox size. Supported by pop-up ads.
    Dave
    G4UGM

    Looking for Analog Computers, Drum Plotters, and Graphics Terminals

  3. #3
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    You can use dynamic IP if you work through your ISP/hosting's relays, which is what I do. I run my mailserver on a little Orange Pi PC running Armbian using fetchmail/dovecot. It works. The hosting mailservers are in Lithuania.

  4. #4
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    What I briefly had running was a gmail account that with IMAP would sync to an Exchange server running locally. Mail coming in through gmail or my domain handle email would go to google's inbox and then sync locally in Exchange where connection security was not as critical because it was locally on the LAN (or securely accessed internationally through a modern WAN or VPN link) and from there any mail client could create and send mail to the exchange server, which then securely synced it back to gmail which would send it out.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by g4ugm View Post
    Basic advice:- Don't fo it.
    If you have a dynamic IP you are pretty much foo barred.
    Most providers block SMTP outbound.
    Many providers don't explicitly block outbound SMTP traffic, but where it is blocked is on mail server blacklists. There's a company called Spamhaus ( https://www.spamhaus.org/ ) that maintains lists known email spam addresses, one such list being the PBL, or the policy block list. It is a list of all known dynamic IP addresses which aren't allowed to be sending out email.

    Mail servers around the world use the PBL and other spam lists to filter out email, meaning that if you send an email direct-to-mx style from a home computer, 99.9% of the time it will never reach the destination. It will be filtered out on the email server of the recipient and usually won't even end up in their spam mail folder.

    direct-to-mx email has been blacklisted for decades because spammers abused it and used to send billions of spam emails out using such methods from zombie machines and hacked servers.

  6. #6

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    There's quite the subculture of folks running there own mail servers, and some really good write up and getting all of the nuances right if you want to set your own up. There are also several, essentially, "email in a box" packages that do much of the heavy lifting for you.

    Here's a series talking about it, even though it's a few years old. https://arstechnica.com/information-...domain-part-1/

    In depth searching will reveal others.

    Up front, the downsides of hosting are setup, maintenance, and traffic blocking. Simply, if you can't send email to Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft, then you can't send mail to anybody. There are a very small amount of very large providers than control a large swath of email addresses. They are dominating partners of the "my way or the highway" kind. They won't actively block you, but there are many hoops to jump through in order to not just be delivered, but to not end up in someone spam folder as well.

    That's part of the whole "maintenance" thing. Mostly this can be a none-issue, but it's important for you to realize that at some point you may send messages that simply "don't get there".

    All of it, however, can be overcome. It's the fiddly-ness of it that deters people.

    As for hosting, its easy enough to host it on the cloud on a VM somewhere. If you want to host it at home, it's a different issue, as others have mentioned.

    One alternative is to have a proxy out in the cloud that routes traffic to your machine at home, so to the outside world it looks like the external system (and their IP), but all of the traffic is on your machine in your care. There's different methods for this, more fiddly-ness.

    In the end, by all means, "Go for it". Just go in with eyes open of what you're in for. For folks that like to "set stuff up" it's a fun exercise.

    Once set up, it should (mostly) run like a top, but it's still something want to keep in the corner of your eye.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    You can use dynamic IP if you work through your ISP/hosting's relays, which is what I do. I run my mailserver on a little Orange Pi PC running Armbian using fetchmail/dovecot. It works. The hosting mailservers are in Lithuania.
    Owned by relatives?

  8. #8
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    No, just happens that I had a tech support inquiry and I noted the surnames of the people that I was talking to. Toss in a few Lithuanian "hellos" and "thank yous" and you've made friends instantly. Said tech support issue was mine--I hadn't maintained my list of certs for some time and forgot all about it.

  9. #9
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    I honestly can't think of the word for 'hello' in Croation. 25 years ago when departing they would say bog (sounds like rogue) which as I understand it means God. I do know a fair number of words and phrases. I'm surprised the simpler things escape me. Zahud is latrine. Morsky pas is shark. Purdit is flatulence. Sheesh meesh, don't ask me how to spell this stuff, is bat.

  10. #10

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    I've run my own mail server since 1998 and it's only gotten harder every year. The chief problem is sending: whole IP blocks get banned by providers with no recourse and spammers don't quit. As a result, if you make one mistake, you'll never get out from under it. I made my mistakes early when it was still possible to seek "forgiveness" and haven't had a problem, but if I did it now, I would use it for receiving mail only and send out through some other service.

    Like anything else, if it's not a priority to you and just something you want to play with, you'll make a rookie mistake and find out it's a big time suck. But if it is a priority to you, you'll still make a rookie mistake, and now you're screwed on top of that because you've just blown a mission-critical service.
    I use my C128 because I am an ornery, stubborn, retro grouch. -- Bob Masse
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