Monday, December 1, 2003

OutlookPower reviews Visnetic Mail Server 6.0


By David Gewirtz

I owe the folks from an apology. I've been using -- relying on -- their Visnetic Mail Server now for well over six months, and I pretty much forgot all about it. This review is the story of a product that's worked so well, we forgot to write the review.

Let me start off by introducing Visnetic Mail Server 6.0 and then letting you know more about our intense use of it. Visnetic Mail Server is a mail server. It hosts email addresses, provides POP3, SMTP, IMAP, LDAP services, along with remote administration capabilities. This secure email server also features TLS/SSL support, built-in anti-spam and integrated antivirus support. The Pro version of the mail server includes multiple domain support, real time monitoring and ODBC support. It also offers a Web email client.

"It just worked. Seriously. No kidding."

We're an Exchange shop -- hey, we publish OutlookPower, whadya expect? Had Visnetic Mail Server been out back when we made the decision to go with Exchange, we might have decided to use Visnetic Mail Server instead. The fact is, though, we do all our user email support through Exchange.

Because of this, we only tested a small subsection of Visnetic Mail Server's capabilities -- the core engine. You see, we use Visnetic Mail Server as the mail transport agent that sends out all of ZATZ' weekly newsletters, including the one you're reading now.

Almost a year ago, we decided to look for the very best list server we could find. We needed one that had failsafe unsubscribe, integrated with our database, and lots more. We looked at products including the very-high end Lyris ListManager, and even open source projects like Mailman. Nothing really suited us. As has long been ZATZ custom, we decided to build it ourselves. OK, I decided to build it myself. This is what happens when the company founder's also an uber-geek.

Fundamentally, a list server consists of a subscriber management interface for subscribing, unsubscribing, and sending messages, a database to manage all the subscribers, and a mail transport agent that's very, very fast and can talk amongst thousands of other email servers to get all that mail out there fast. It also needs to manage the inflowing river of bounces, vacation alerts, unsubscribe requests, and even denial of service attacks.

For the subscriber management interface, I decided to extend ZENPRESS, our patent-pending journal production system. That tool's built in UserLand Frontier, perhaps the most versatile Web application development environment I've ever found. I chose MySQL as the database engine. And I looked at a variety of mail transport agents for the server that sends mail between the servers.