Review by Ron McCarty
CommuniGate Pro from Stalker Software is second only to Sendmail when it comes to cross-platform mail server software. CommuniGate Pro is a commercial mail transfer agent available for Apple MacOS X, BeOS, BSDI, BSD/OS, FreeBSD 4.x, HP/UX, IBM S/390, IBM OS/400, IBM AS/400 Power, Linux (Red Hat 6.x/7.x, SuSE, LinuxPPC, YellowDog, Cobalt, Alpha, NetWinder), Microsoft Windows NT, Microsoft Windows 95/98, OpenBSD, SCO UnixWare, SGI IRIX, Sun Solaris, and Tru64 (Digital Unix).
In this article, I will review CommuniGate Pro version 3.4.7 on Solaris. I used Solaris 2.6 for the review; however, the binaries and scripts are uniform across Solaris versions.
This install steps are very straightforward and are covered at: http://www.stalker.com/CommuniGatePro/Install.html#Solaris. The steps covered include instructions for removing Sendmail from the system. After the quick installation -- and a quick look at the password generated during the install with:
-- administration of CommuniGate Pro can be started by pointing a browser at port 8010 of the server, such as:
http://sunny.my-own-domain.to:8010. See Figure 1.
The number of services immediately supported with the installation and configured through the Web interface is almost overwhelming. CommuniGate Pro supports the popular protocols IMAP, POP3, and SMTP. Webmail is also directly supported.
Administration is straightforward through a hierarchy of screens that control everything from mail routing, to domain management, and accounts.
Serving Up Email
The most prominent SMTP features are size limitations, retry attempts, time out intervals, and easy support of multiple domains.
On the client side, what will be most noticeable to service providers is the support of clients without requiring a Unix account -- definitely a plus for additional security. IMAP and POP are both supported, as are some lesser known protocols. User administration includes limiting user mailbox sizes, allowing the user to determine whether to use rules on incoming mail, and whether the user should have the system-wide banners attached to email.
For many administrators, Webmail has become the universal client of choice; CommuniGate Pro supports it directly.
Although most Webmail implementations cannot perform as well as full- blown clients, Webmail is an effective tool, even for the most demanding remote users. Webmail features can be compared to commercial services such as Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail. Features include multiple mailbox support, POP-to-Webmail support for multiple email accounts, and file attachments. Secure socket layer (SSL) access is provided to ensure that no clear-text passwords are passed through the network.
The user interface provides straightforward administration, with some added features that allow complete administration without dropping to the shell. The Web interface provides event logging, queue monitoring, SMTP traffic, and user access (see Figure 2). The noticeable missing functionality is the ability to start, stop, or restart the daemon. Although a restart was not necessary during my testing, it would be a nice added feature.
Once information is entered to bring up the initial system, the standard settings for the system will be fine for most sites; however, CommuniGate Pro does provide the capability to change almost all behavior through 14 submenus under the Settings menu.
CommuniGate Pro also supports its own security model, allowing administrators to be limited to server, directory, domain, and account settings. This allows granular administration to match the needs of the organization, such as allowing the network operations center to enter user accounts, but allowing only the administrator to make changes to domains.
One concern I have about CommuniGate Pro is the documentation. While it is adequate for setting up the server, it does not serve as an adequate reference for users and administrators. For example, when using Webmail, it is not obvious that multiple domain support is accessed by having the user specify the domain name as part of the account name. Also, the function of each of the TCP ports is not clear. (Port 8010 is the administration port; 9010 is also an administration port, but uses the secure socket layer (SSL) to encrypt the session; and 8100 is the Webmail port.)
Another concern is the storage of user passwords as clear text on the disk drive. While the files are protected using standard Unix file permissions, encryption should be a standard setting for the files.
CommuniGate Pro may not be the product for hands-on administrators who prefer tweaking and fine tuning their network services. However, for those who want to install the production server and forget about it, CommuniGate Pro is definitely worth checking out. Command-line gurus may miss the direct interaction with the system; however, chances are that low-level access to the system will rarely be needed. CommuniGate Pro is an ideal fit for most independent support and solutions providers. It offers a stable solution requiring little back office support while providing an easy-to-use Web interface for user creation.
Ease of Use: 5/5
Platform Support: 5/5