AtMail, Axigen, and MagicMail Review (Phase 1)
First you should know I’m a network administrator for a decently sized ISP. I said decent… not Comcast, not Verizon. On a good day we bring in 3 to 4 million email messages spread over about 11,000 email accounts. Now I realize that some of you out there probably do that in one day with a single company but that’s not important. What you really need to know is that our email is handled by about 9 mail servers which pass mail from server to server, I don’t know how many times until it reaches it’s final destination on a single mail NAS where it will be picked up by one of three webmail servers. The system was designed for high availability, and has proved to be resilient to failure when just the other day the smtp-in cluster tanked. That’s right three separate machines crashed at the same time backing up our ham queue to over 125,000 messages. The fix? We simply pulled them out of the loop. Mail was flowing again; users don’t know the difference. The problem with our setup? We don’t really know how it works. Think about it, 9 Qmail servers linked with a custom billing system, 2 barracudas for filtering, and 2 LDAP servers for authentication. Someone before me created what we have come to call “Cluster F” (Yes, it’s intentional).
Enter “Cluster G”. G is the replacement for F, rightfully so. We are currently approaching the end of phase 1, that is, deciding which email solution will replace our current mess. We have looked at a three linux based solutions, but only one stands out so far.
This was the first of the emails solutions that we considered, and to be honest, we were quite impressed. The interface was easy, the webmail was pretty, the setup…. couldn’t have been simpler. Additionally, it ran on top of MySQL, a feature we very much liked. Even the price was reasonable. We almost didn’t even consider other options… until we tried to get a hold of them. It took two contact requests from their website and three voice-mails to tech support and to sales until I finally got an email requesting to setup a conference call. I called them five times and not once did I call and get a person. I was routed to voicemail everytime. When it came time for the conference call, the call got disconnected shortly into it, and I never got a call back. Needless to say, we did not pursue atmail any further.
This was the second solution that we considered. Pricing was higher right off the bat. In fact it was almost twice what AtMail was, but not all that unreasonable. Axigen clearly offered a solid email package for ISPs. It’s strong points included clustering, and multi domain licensing. Their webmail interface was clean and simple, yet not cheap and tacky. The administration panel was clean, simple, and ajaxy. Again… the only real complaint here was customer service. While I did call and American sales number, and I got support right away, the representative that I spoke sounded like he was on a cell phone and admitted that he wasn’t in the U.S. When requesting a follow up, he said he didn’t have a pen to take down my contact information and he requested that I go to the website and submit a request there. Axigen fail.
This is the most recent solution we considered and by far the most impressive. If you are looking for an email solution of any capacity, consider MagicMail first. In fact, call them and set up a conference call/ demonstration. A technical rep will give you an overview of the important aspects of the software, and I have to say that it was an impressive presentation. Let me back track a bit…
Going into our search, we knew that most MTA’s now included some sort of spam filtering… what we weren’t going to do was give up our Barracuda Spam Firewalls as they have proved to be a significant investment to our company. No matter what mail solution we chose, the Barracuda’s were staying. I say all that to say this… after seeing the MagicMail demonstration, we are now looking to get rid of our beloved Barracudas.
What we liked about the software was that it was it’s own distro. They use their own brew of linux and whatever you want to do to it is fine with them. The whole box is supported. Additionally, the spam filtering and blacklisting was second to none. Finally, the webmail was Squirrel Mail. Eeeek! Right? Wrong. It’s been polished and is beautiful. We’ve always known Squirrel Mail was stable and good, we just never liked the look. Detail was clearly an object when it came to the design of the front end , right down to the marketing of your email system to your own clients.
We haven’t purchased the software yet, nor have tested it. But if you are in my boat, looking for a new email solution for an organization of any size, skip AtMail and Axigen and just start with MagicMail. As we moved forward in the process, I will continue to review the process for your enlightenment.