Friday, July 16, 2010

In Which I Yield to Powerful Forces

As long ago as it was possible, I began running my own mail servers. Over the years, I employed a variety of software and hardware and for the past decade or more I've had to run antispam software as well. I did it partly to avoid the alternatives (which were pretty unsatisfactory in the early days) and partly to understand the process in case clients needed help with their mail servers.

Happily, I am now without clients. And the alternatives might not be so bad. But I am stubborn, so I decided to solve my most recent problem by setting up some new software on a VM in the USA. The problem I was solving was the increasing unreliability of my ADSL connection—not through any fault of my excellent ISP, but because Telstra appears to have a policy of letting the copper infrastructure decay sufficiently that any successor won't be at all glad to be saddled with it. At any rate, there have been no spare pairs in my street since we got the last pair five years ago. Since then, we've had line faults after every heavy rain and it takes between three and seven days to fix things, where "fix" means find the wet joint, dry it out, patch it up and say "she'll be right now mate."

So I looked at all-in-one solutions for email, in the mistaken belief that there would be something out there that I could more or less just drop into place on a VM, do a bit of DNS magic and sit back happily. I looked at Horde, Zimbra, Zarafa, Courier and a couple of others whose names escape me now. They probably are all capable of doing the job, but all require a great deal of dedicated setup and they look as though they need a fair bit of care and feeding once they are operational. None of them looked like what I wanted and I started thinking that if these were the answer to my question, I must have asked the wrong question.

So I considered Google. I've had a bunch of gmail accounts ever since it was launched. I don't particularly like it, although that's mainly just me. And, for various reasons which I can't talk about here, plain gmail accounts don't work for much of the email I have to provide. But Google Apps offer a bit more than just gmail, so I thought I'd spend a little bit of time investigating. I gave myself a maximum of one day to complete this and in fact needed much less. I now have all email addressed to my 11 operational domains going to Google Apps accounts for me and my wife. Nobody has to change the email addresses they use, and the outgoing email looks as though it still comes from where it always did.

And Google's antispam stuff is awesome. So far, we've had a few thousand emails arrive and every spam has been caught without a single false positive. It's so good that I'm going to stop checking the spam folders now. This is so simple that it's a total no-brainer for me. The only possible downside is storing our email with Google, but that is easy to fix via their nice API that allows you to download it all for storage wherever you like.

Well, the other possible downside is that my wife might spit the dummy when she returns from seven weeks in Europe on Monday and discovers that she is not using exmh any more. But it will be too late and I hope it won't end in tears. At least she has been using one of the ordinary gmail accounts every day while she's been away, so she is familiar with how it works.


  1. Oh, how even the mighty are falling for these new fangled gods. First it was your blogging site, now it is email. Goggle's app-engine does wonderful web sites, but it looks to me like is being abandoned, not moved.

    There is hardly any point to having a server at home at all, is there? There are bugger all tasks left - just file and printer serving. But the printers run their own servers and your file server can be moved into the cloud using dropbox. I bet your server is feeling a little scared right now. After all, it saw what happened to the fax machine.

    The cloud is looking more and more like the borg to me. All my mates are being willingly assimilated.

  2. I've stopped adding stuff to, but it will remain online for as long as I can afford a VM somewhere for it so that historical material can remain accessible. But I'm loving Google Apps today :)


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