CommuniGate Pro Mail Server

 in
Stalker Software has received numerous awards for their CGP product.
Target Audience

With the abundance of features packed into CGP, it may sound a bit overwhelming to some system administrators at first, but let me assure you this is most certainly not the case. Most features are easily configured, and if you don't need a particular service, don't run it. Click a checkbox and it's off—it's that simple. The Web Mail interface obviously targets free e-mail services akin to Yahoo! and Hotmail, but it is much more than just Web Mail and should be equally at home in small companies, ISPs or large enterprise networks. For those interested in using it as a free web mail server, header and trailer fields are allowed to be set. I've seen people quote anywhere from a dozen to over 100,000 users on the mailing list so far, and just in case you want to support more users, CGP also has a “Cluster” option that allows you to use multiple servers in tandem.

Customer Feedback—Some First-Hand Comments

Software evaluations and reviews often leave out an important part—real-world use. A quick e-mail to the mailing list yielded several responses from different companies currently using CGP, ranging from a school with 1200 or so accounts to several companies using the web interfaces for free e-mail services supporting tens of thousands of users.

Ofer Tanenbaum of Zipmail (http://www.zipmail.com/), which offers a free web-based e-mail service, says Zipmail already has over 20,000 users and is growing daily, running on an Intel-based FreeBSD server with less than .07 CPU load and over 100 concurrent connections. Zipmail had tried EIMS and Appleshare IP previously, and Tanenbaum had some personal experience with MS Exchange. His overall impression? “Bottom line, nothing to compare.”

MauiMail (http://www.MauiMail.com/) is also using CGP for web-based e-mail and has been running CGP for about a year, on an Apple G3/450. An employee of MauiMail, Darly Hansen, claims it to be “much smoother than our previous system. Very stable.” Most other responses I've gotten from the list tend to agree.

Pricing and Support

Pricing is free for a trial version and starts at $499 to license 50 users, 1000 accounts at $1999, on up to $30,000 for unlimited accounts and lists. Support packages vary, but free support via e-mail is included, with additional packages ranging from five incidents through unlimited 24x7 with guaranteed on-site support at varying costs. I've monitored the mailing list for several months, and for the most part problems are answered the same day, sometimes within hours, including on weekends.

Some of the list members have been doing heavy customization to the system, mainly the Web Mail configuration. While not always able to resolve an issue immediately or the first time in some cases, there almost always seems to be a way to do what the customer wants.

The documentation does a good job as well, but can be a bit overwhelming in size. On-line help is available to the administrator and users alike through the web interface. The list also serves as a place to make feature requests, and staff members at Stalker are very motivated to keep their customers happy.

Conclusion

Many products in the past have tried to be all things to all people, ranging from Windows and all its permutations to the different groups working on making Linux alternately either a desktop OS or a server OS. Most have mixed results, giving up something in trying to be too many things. Surprisingly, this is not the case with CommuniGate Pro. With its abundance of features and ease of administration, it practically runs itself once configured and is up to any task you may ask of it. If you need a feature, chances are there's already a way to do it, or it's coming soon. So, is it perfect? No. However, while it could use a few tweaks here and there, most are minor, which is all the more impressive considering the scope of the product. So who needs Exchange or cryptic Sendmail and procmail configuration? Not me, I'll take my CommuniGate Pro!

Scott Wegener started programming in BASIC on a TRS-80 CoCo way back when, and has been using Linux since before it came on CDs. He is currently employed as a software engineer and sometime system administrator by VERITAS Software, where he develops cross-platform reusable components. He can be reached at wegster@mindcore.net.

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