Latest MDaemon Keeps Up as Exchange Alternative

Windows Software: A new emphasis on mobile users improves a leading Exchange alternative.

By Aaron Weiss | Posted Jun 22, 2006
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Already a leading alternative to Microsoft Exchange, Alt-N MDaemon has bumped up another version number in its aim to maintain leading-edge mail server functionality. In its latest incarnation, MDaemon primarily addresses mobile computing, groupware enhancements, and server performance.

The MDaemon server itself is just over 30 MB to download and consumes at least 60 MB when installed. The installer is mostly well-tuned by now, resulting in a nearly turnkey e-mail server ready to go in just a few minutes. Our one gripe, though, is that the installer defaults to the top-level C: drive, not a location administrators typically install software.

Besides the base install, Alt-N offers a variety of add-ons, including anti-virus support ($115 to $1,640 depending on the number of seats), a fax relay ($180 to $2,300), and an Outlook connector ($120 to $6,400) that supports groupware features without the need for Microsoft Exchange Server. The browser-based WebAdmin tool, which had previously been a separate install, has been integrated into MDaemon version 9.

Also with version 9, Alt-N recognizes the increasing popularity of mobile connectivity through mobile phones, PDAs, and similar devices. Thus, MDaemon now includes support for the SyncML protocol, which streamlines synchronization of address books, tasks, and calendars between accounts on the mail server and mobile devices (or any software with SyncML support). Also enhancing MDaemon's mobile features is a new PocketPC theme for Alt-N's WorldClient Web-based e-mail interface. PDAs and phones with PocketPC 2003 or Windows Mobile 5 can connect to WorldClient and access server-side contacts, tasks, and calendars.

Speaking of WorldClient and groupware, MDaemon 9 now has a free/busy server in its feature set. Accessible through both the browser-based WorldClient interface or Outlook when licensing the Outlook Connector, the free/busy server publishes the availability of other account holders for improved scheduling.

In terms of performance, Alt-N is wisely jumping onto the multi-threaded bandwagon. MDaemon's anti-spam support has been spun off into an independent server running under its own thread. Not only can this improve performance on a single server, but it also allows for installing the anti-spam engine and base mail server on separate machines, potentially improving performance even more under heavy loads. Within the mail server itself, Alt-N has multi-threaded message processing, content filtering, and an IMAP component. This new architecture will tespecially benefit from the increasing popularity of dual-core processors, which achieve their greatest performance boosts when running multi-threaded applications.

MDaemon 9 also introduces support for Sender ID, the anti-forging e-mail defense protocol advanced by Microsoft. This rounds out MDaemon's support for e-mail authentication protocols, as version 8 already included support for SPF, DomainKeys, and HashCash, all of which remain in version 9.

In the "other" category of enhancements, MDaemon 9 boosts its ActiveDirectory features with mailing list support and automatic AD monitoring. Additions and removals of accounts to ActiveDirectory can be automatically recognize by MDaemon, and are synchronized accordingly.

Both of MDaemon's browser-based interfaces — the WebAdmin administration interface and the WorldClient "Outlook" clone — continue to evolve as slick, polished products.

As with earlier version of MDaemon, the mail server's best features, and most of its newest, are reserved for the "Pro" version. At $380, the entry-level six-user Pro license is more than double the $130 "Standard" license, but the features exclusive to this version are what really makes MDaemon a standout product.

Pros: New support for mobile computing; Multi-threaded performance; Slick professional browser-based interfaces.
Cons: Limited to Windows platform; Standard version too limited in value and features.

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 06/15/2006
Original Review Version: 9.0

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