Monday, December 1, 2003

OutlookPower reviews Visnetic Mail Server 6.0

As it happened, we had been sent Visnetic Mail Server for review, and -- just a random try -- I decided to give it a test as the mail transport agent I needed for my list server project. And then, I just plain forgot about it.

For those of you who install server software, you know how rare it is for something to just work. See, here's the thing. It just worked. Seriously. No kidding. I installed the thing, set up the parameters for our list addresses, and sent mail through it. And it worked.

At this point, I had so many other aspects of the project to finish, including better subscriber resources, better database interaction, and so forth, that I just forgot about Visnetic Mail Server. It's been working, generally forgotten, week after week for at least half a year -- with absolutely no hassles.

So, let's talk about what we do -- and don't do -- with this thing. We don't use it to manage user accounts, Web client access, POP access, IMAP, or any of that stuff. So other than telling you there's no red flags, I can't really attest to how well those aspects of the product work.

The real core of any mail server, though, is its ability to send mail from server to server. How well it does that, how fast it does that, and whether or not the server crashes or not is the big test. And, I gotta tell you, Visnetic Mail Server passed the test!

We pump at least a million outgoing messages (all opt-in subscribers like you) out each week, through Visnetic Mail Server. Blowback (the bounces, vacation alerts, unsubscribe requests, attacks, and so forth) account for, at bare minimum, another million messages a week. We've been torture testing this thing, running more than 8 million messages a month through it, for more than half a year.

And, what's even crazier, I've had to throttle it back, reducing the number of concurrent connections. When we first started mailing through it, it sent out so many messages, so fast, that it wound up completely clogging our dedicated T-1 connection, including the surge bandwidth that Verizon provides us. It's that fast. In fact, if we had more bandwidth (we tested this on another provider's monster-sized pipes a month or so ago), we could get our million-plus messages out to everyone in less than 6 hours. With our T-1, it takes about 3 days, but that does leave room left over to access the network.

Bottom line: this product is rock solid. The only complaint I have is that the documentation is rather simplistic. They provide instructions for basic email setup, but don't go into real depth, especially for specialized applications. The documentation treats this product as more of a consumer product and doesn't really talk to the IT guy who might actually need to tap its power. For that reason, and that reason alone, we can't give this a 5 out of 5. However, we do give Visnetic Mail Server a very well-earned 4 out of 5 flying OutlookPower envelopes.