CommuniGate Pro Mail Server

Stalker Software has received numerous awards for their CGP product.

One of the nicer features about CGP is the ability to customize. You decide which services you want to provide or allow, based on per domain or per user. You could allow only secure connections, or restrict connections via IP or domain. And the web interface, including the web actions dictated by each link, may be customized to suit your taste. The default Web Mail configuration is acceptable for most intranets, but ISPs and free e-mail sites would certainly want to add their own layouts. This seems to be easily accomplished, based on feedback I've seen on the CGP mailing list, including the use of custom CGI scripts, or choosing from ones available on the Stalker web site. Future upgrades will leave your changes intact, but use common sense; always make a backup.

The Web Interface

It's inevitable—everyone has seen it. Most of us have one somewhere or another. Some people love it, some hate it—web mail is here to stay, and can make life much easier for those on the road or otherwise remotely accessing e-mail. The default web mail configuration is usable, but has some quirks and annoyances. To be fair here, so do Yahoo, Hotmail and the like. The web interface can be customized almost to your heart's content, and it does provide some nice features. I have not done any customization, but several commercial customers on the CGP list seem to have had success with it. Therefore, any comments here are about the default interface only.

Users are able to configure their web-mail settings to include sort order, number of messages to display per screen, which mailboxes to display, signature and reply formats and too many other things to cover here, but suffice to say it's quite nice. Users also have the option of polling external mailboxes via POP3, and as an added bonus, can use the web interface to upload and maintain their personal web site. A user may also define his own rules, using the same options as the server-wide rules—an option any user subscribed to mailing lists will definitely appreciate.

All is not perfection, however; a few annoyances remain, most notably the default “Delete” and “Next Unread” operations. Upon deleting a viewed message, a user is brought back to the Mailbox, rather than the more usual behavior of moving on to the next unread message without requiring user intervention. The “Next Unread” seems to ignore any sort order a user has specified and moves on to the next unread message in its mail file rather than using the sort order for displaying messages. This may sound minor, but it can be quite frustrating with a folder containing a lot of unread messages. The Delete behavior can (thankfully) be fixed easily by making a minor change to the HTML.

The last remaining quirk relates to the way some mail clients send web pages as attachments. Under some circumstances, the user is confronted with a message about “Embedded Web Pages” and his browser being unable to display in-line frames. So far, Netscape Messenger and Outlook Express produce the same result. When this happens, the user must click on a link to launch another browser window in order to view it. Hopefully, this will be fixed shortly.

Users, Lists and Normal Operations

I've used everything from Pine to Netscape and Outlook to retrieve mail from CGP and have yet to run into a problem using these clients via IMAP or POP3. Mailing lists are easy to set up, and also allow accessing them via the Web. They can be configured to automatically digest and support the typical features under traditional list servers such as majordomo, allowing for both moderated and unmoderated, public and private lists. The help files, list notifications and bounce processing are easily configured and customizable.

The Good
  • easy installation & administration

  • many tools and features

  • highly customizable

  • thorough administration package

  • mail transport agent and web e-mail service

  • retrieves POP3 or IMAP

The Bad
  • next unread operation is disorganized

  • delete operation exits folder

  • web page attachments are problematic

Day-to-day administration is minimal, since the log rotation and most tasks are handled for you (once configured). A note of caution is in order, however; the logs can get quite large if all data is being logged, so after determining the server is in working order, logging policies should probably be altered. A “Monitors” section of the Admin interface allows you to watch all active connections via the Web and other protocols and view any logs, including filtered logging by content or time. One minor complaint is the log is displayed in reverse order with the most recent events displayed at the bottom of the page, which may be off the screen. A nice addition would be to send a notification if more connections are being requested than are configured, to enable system administrators to determine more easily when they may need to allow more connections or upgrade hardware. Aside from that, most administrators should rarely need to use the monitors section as the system practically runs itself, but it's good to know it's there.