Seeking a Mail Server That Meets All Your Antivirus and Antispam Needs?

Following a solid history with VOP Mail and VOP Radius servers, Vircom has produced VOP modusMail, a strong mail server for enterprises. With few exceptions, this product fits the needs of a versatile enterprise-level mail server, and, like the economists say, “all things being equal” with the basic mail server, VOP modusMail’s outstanding capability to control both virus and spam problems sets it apart.

Installation and Management

A GUI interface may not be de rigueur for a mail server, but it does help.

For example, it has become something of the norm, as it is with VOP modusMail, to install and perform basic configuration of a mail server in minutes instead of hours. To a certain extent the beauty of the user interface is in the eye of the beholder, but we found the VOP modusMail Management Console to be well organized and easy to use — a far cry from the struggles routinely encountered with unenhanced sendmail (albeit in another, parallel universe).

Vircom has done a good job of gathering the many and various management capabilities under one GUI roof. This contributes to making features, such as spam control, seem more integrated than they do in other mail server products.

Server Capabilities

You’d be hard pressed to find a major feature that VOP modusMail doesn’t support, such as mail protocols SMTP, ESMTP, POP3, and IMAP-4. VOP modusMail uses the tested VOP Mail Server, which we found to have above average database connectivity in several areas as well as good performance. While this system doesn’t have the clustering control of the largest enterprise mail systems, its scalability is not limited to a single server.

Perhaps the centerpiece for enterprise and ISP purposes is its support for multiple real and virtual domains. We found it easy to set up several virtual domains on a single server and then parcel out some of the administrative responsibility to users. Mailbox management for users is equally easy to configure.

When it comes to user authentication, as you’d expect from a company that makes a Radius server, the support is comprehensive, with support for, for example, LDAP, Radius, EcoBuilder, ODBC database, and NT SAM. Another notable feature about VOP modusMail is its capability to interface with billing and account management programs (e.g., iBOB, RODOPI, Platypus, and Hawk-I).

In addition, VOP modusMail’s logging and monitoring options are extensive and support external database acquisition (ODBC). It also has a built-in mail list server with an array of features to support it.

Security and Spam Control

The concept of a mail server with antivirus and antispam components is not new. What distinguishes VOP modusMail from the pack is that in VOP modusMail these components are top of the line and integrated into the basic server — not an aftermarket add-on.

The core of VOP modusMail’s virus protection is the Norman Data Defense System. This is perhaps not as well known in the United States as McAfee or Norton, but it has won its share of awards. Scan results can be cached for better performance, and antivirus options can be assigned to specific users or domains or systemwide.

VOP modusMail doesn’t just dump suspect files into a quarantine folder. It gives the administrator tools to work with them, such as the capability to securely examine files, impose quarantine quotas, release suspected files, and customize notification for users about the quarantined files.

The heart of the spam control goes beyond the usual system-level blockers (i.e., reverse DNS lookup, domain blocking, multiple real-time blacklists, antirelay filtering, and dynamic blacklisting) and includes an implementation of the Sieve language, an emerging standard for filtering email messages. Although using Sieve requires some programming skill, an administrator can do wonders in catching even the most sophisticated spammers — without arbitrarily cutting off important business mail.

One of the new features in version 1.2 are Sieve scripts (provided free by Vircom) that make it possible to implement some very effective antispamming without digging into Sieve coding. Updates to new spam filters and virus definitions are available 24/7.

Surprisingly, considering how security conscious VOP modusMail is with antivirus and spam control, support for SSL and other forms of encryption is not nearly as extensive as, for example, the multiplexor support of SSL in iPlanet Messaging Server, nor does VOP modusMail offer tools to work with network firewalls.

Customization and Support

A few mail servers, such as Deerfield.com’s MDaemon, provide an API for customization; however, given the Sieve scripting, domain configuration, and user management options, we feel VOP modusMail is sufficiently customizable for most email applications.

The documentation, provided in PDF format, is quite good. Vircom places considerable emphasis on supporting virus and spam functionality and is attempting to build a community behind the Vircom Anti-Spam Coalition.

Vircom packages VOP modusMail as a set of core functions (mail server, antivirus, antispam, and administration interface). There are optional packages, such as VOP Mail Web, which allows browser-based user mail access (this can be an included feature in other mail server products); a Migration module for converting other mail systems; and an Exchanger module that supports a fail-over redundancy server.

VOP modusMail also comes in a Service Provider edition that, among other things, provides for giving users antivirus and antispam services on an individual basis (and is presumably a revenue source for Vircom).

In the very large enterprise market, VOP modusMail doesn’t really compete with the likes of iPlanet Message Server as a powerful cross-platform server, or with Microsoft Exchange which is, well, Microsoft. But for midsize and small business, or even ISPs, VOP modusMail is an impressive package. It’s not the least-expensive mail server, even on the Windows platform, but it brings a lot of important built-in features to the table and is a good value. Even small organizations can’t afford to be without email service or have their systems degraded by virus and spam attacks. VOP modusMail is a comprehensive and solid package for Windows-based email.

Pros: Easy to use administrative interface; superb antivirus and antispam capability

Cons: For the enterprise market — not cross-platform; no firewall solution

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