A Server (Almost) of Your Own

Set up a virtual host for e-mail on your virtual private server.
Configuring the Mail Server

The mail server, also known as the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA), is a program that delivers and receives e-mail messages. The MTA will receive all the mail that others send you. Likewise, any messages you send to others will leave your VPS through the MTA.

The default MTA on your VPS is Sendmail. This sophisticated, powerful program has advantages for complex e-mail configurations. Unfortunately, it also is difficult to configure and tends to have a lot of security problems.

Therefore, we replace Sendmail with Postfix. Postfix is efficient, very secure and, most important, easy to configure. Before proceeding with the installation, shut down Sendmail, and make sure that it will not start again on reboot. Then, install Postfix:

[root@myvps ~]# /etc/init.d/sendmail stop
Shutting down sendmail:                      [  OK  ]
Shutting down sm-client:                     [  OK  ]
[root@myvps ~]# chkconfig --del sendmail
[root@myvps ~]# up2date --install postfix

Note that using the up2date command to install packages is specific to Red Hat and related distributions. You may be presented with a configuration screen the first time that you run up2date. You can simply press Enter to accept the default values. In addition, up2date is sometimes very slow and can even fail for transient reasons. You can try the command again if it does not work the first time.

The main Postfix configuration file is /etc/postfix/main.cf. Save a copy of this file to read later, because it contains many helpful comments. Then, replace /etc/postfix/main.cf with the code from Listing 1. You should modify your new main.cf to specify the domain names that you will be hosting on your VPS.

Listing 1. Example main.cf File for Postfix on a VPS
# Example "main.cf" file for Postfix on a VPS.
# Note that lines that begin with whitespace
# continue the previous line.

queue_directory = /var/spool/postfix
command_directory = /usr/sbin
daemon_directory = /usr/libexec/postfix

mail_owner = postfix

# Host name is usually the domain name on a VPS.
myhostname = first.domain
mydomain = first.domain

# Where locally-posted mail will come from.
myorigin = $myhostname

# Listen on all interfaces.
inet_interfaces = all

# This server is the final destination for these domains.
mydestination = localhost, localhost.localdomain,
                $myhostname, localhost.$mydomain,
                $mydomain, second.domain

# IMPORTANT -- accept mail for relaying ONLY from
# the local machine.
mynetworks_style = host

# Where your aliases are.
alias_maps = hash:/etc/aliases
alias_database = hash:/etc/aliases

# This user should receive any mail whose recipient
# could not otherwise be matched.
luser_relay = maila@localhost.localdomain

# IMPORTANT -- local recipient checking must be
# turned off for the "luser_relay" directive to
# work.
local_recipient_maps =

# Error code to reject mail with when the local
# recipient is not known.
unknown_local_recipient_reject_code = 550

# Your server's greeting banner.  IMPORTANT -- it
# MUST start with your server's hostname, and the
# reverse DNS lookup on the server's IP address MUST
# match this hostname, or your outgoing mail could
# be rejected as SPAM.
smtpd_banner = $myhostname ESMTP

# See the "main.cf" that came with your Postfix
# distribution for discussion on the rest of the
# directives in this file.
debug_peer_level = 2

debugger_command =
  xxgdb $daemon_directory/$process_name $process_id
  & sleep 5

sendmail_path = /usr/sbin/sendmail.postfix

newaliases_path = /usr/bin/newaliases.postfix

mailq_path = /usr/bin/mailq.postfix

setgid_group = postdrop

html_directory = no

manpage_directory = /usr/share/man

sample_directory = /usr/share/doc/postfix-2.1.5/samples

readme_directory = /usr/share/doc/postfix-2.1.5/README_FILES

Replace all occurrences of first.domain in Listing 1 with your own fully qualified domain name, such as openlight.com. The reverse DNS lookup of your VPS's IP address must return this domain! Otherwise, your outbound messages may be rejected as spam.

If you are hosting an additional domain name, substitute it instead of the second.domain entry. Otherwise, delete second.domain before using Listing 1. If you wish, you can also, replace maila in Listing 1 with the user name of your choice.

Now, append an entry to the /etc/aliases file to specify the user who will receive root's mail. Here is an example:

root:           maila

Next, create accounts for the other e-mail users. Append any aliases for these users to /etc/aliases. The following example entry will cause user mailb to receive all messages sent to promo@first.domain:

promo:          mailb

Note that if you have an additional domain name, messages to promo@second.domain will also go to mailb. For a small organization, this is probably the right default behavior, because all domain names that you will be hosting are almost certainly related. For example, if you are hosting an additional domain for your product, then tech-support questions about the product should likely go to the same person, regardless of which domain name appears in the e-mail address.

When you are finished, update the alias database file, and start Postfix:

[root@myvps ~]# postalias /etc/aliases
[root@myvps ~]# /etc/init.d/postfix start
Starting postfix: [  OK  ]

Check the log file /var/log/maillog for any errors.

You can update the aliases file even while Postfix is running, just run postalias /etc/aliases again when you are finished.

You should now verify that Postfix is doing what you expect. Connect to port 25 on your VPS using telnet, as shown in Listing 2. Enter just the text highlighted in bold—the rest of the text is the system's responses. Of course, you should type the IP address of your VPS in place of MY.VPS.IP.ADDRESS, and your actual domain name instead of first.domain.



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The articles is good,

elf's picture

The articles is good, however when it comes about email I think qmail offers more flexibility. From my experience I found Debian to be more apropriate for VPS than Fedora.

great article :)

statistik-tutorial's picture

Since I prefer postfix, too and use it together with dovecot I found this article very helpful. I think postfix together with dovecot is easy to configure and flexible enough for most tasks. Though it's a matter of personal taste as always.

the article is very good :P

Pedro Simões's picture

I desagree with that i prefer postfix than qmail much easier to personalize and resolving problems and qmail u allways to have a patch to fix something or add something.....


Tattoo Design's picture

The article is very informative.....thanks for providing such an in depth knowledge

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