FTGate

During the past few months we have had endless e-mail problems with Outlook losing its rules and its mind and just as the volume of e-mail has increased significantly. Unfortunately, much of that volume is spam rather than messages from clients promising that the check is in the mail. Be that as it may.

In an effort to improve our messaging lot, we decided to go back to using our own mail server. But not just any server. No, we decided to look at the latest incarnation of FTGate, a mail server from Floosietek Ltd., which we reviewed way back when.

The latest incarnation comes in three versions: FTGatePro, FTGateOffice and FTGateLite. FTGateLite is really a home- or small-office product, so we’ll focus on the other versions.

We installed FTGatePro (which is extremely easy to do) and, wow, have they improved this product! One of the biggest changes in FTGatePro and FTGateOffice is that all the server management is Web-based. This makes life much easier and lets you extend the services with as much abandon as you please. At the simplest level, you might want to customize the look and feel for your organization.

You are limited only by your programming skills, as these products support FTScript, Floosietek’s version of the ECMA 262 (JavaScript) language that includes a whole host of functions related to the FTGate services. And scripts can be triggered by service events – for example, scripts to be executed on server start-up, when messages are received or on connection via dial-up services.

FTGateOffice runs on Windows 2000, NT, 98 or Millennium Edition, supports only one domain, no private networking, uses only simple scheduling for sending and receiving messages, and mailboxes are limited to a maximum of 1,000. FTGatePro runs on Win 2000 or NT, supports unlimited domains, allows multiple schedules and supports unlimited mailboxes (well, actually a theoretical limit of one billion).

Along with the Web management comes a very workable basic Webmail service (the major weaknesses are you can’t attach files through the Webmail client user interface or save copies of outgoing mail), and you can create your own Web sites (the file extension for FTGate Web content must be FTS rather than the usual extensions, such as HTM or HTML).

There is even a built-in Lightweight Directory Access Protocol server to which you add directory entries that aren’t related to mailboxes, letting you use the service, for example, as a corporate directory service. There’s also an HTTP proxy.

Both versions support regular mailboxes with options for running scripts when messages are received, returning out-of-office messages and auto-replying, as well as forwarding and copying copies.

There are also aliases (e-mail addresses that stand for other addresses), auto-responder mailboxes, robots (the server hands over the incoming messages to an external program), and group mailboxes (delivery to a list of users optionally with round-robin delivery – useful in technical support or customer service groups).

You can create mailing lists that are controlled or open subscription, moderated, archived and auto-managed (a bounced message to a list member can unsubscribe that address).

There are spam filters, anti-virus tools, routing rules and kill lists, direct delivery via DNS MX records, NT account integration, extensive logging and mailbox quotas.

In short, this a well-designed, extremely well featured mail server that is even better than FTGate we reviewed all that time ago, and we called that version perfect!

This release has some less polished edges, such as clunky user interface graphics, workable but not great documentation (a real manual on scripting the servers is needed) and some minor configuration gotchas that require serious thinking about to avoid. That said FTGatePro and FTGateOffice are far more complex than their predecessor and less than a year old.

With those minor issues resolved FTGatePro would again be our perfect mail server. For now, it wins nine gearteeth out of 10!

Floosietek Ltd. is at http://www.ftgate.com. Mail your thoughts to gearhead@gibbs.com.

Prices listed are in US currency.