Overview

E-mail has become one of the most important communications mediums for both businesses and individuals. As with most networking tools, e-mail relies on the presence of both clients and servers. Chances are you're familiar with e-mail clients (aka mail readers) generally. Chapter 8, "Miscellaneous User Tools," describes Linux mail clients specifically. Most individuals and many small businesses run mail clients locally but rely on others to run mail servers. Some individuals, some small businesses, and most large organizations run their own mail servers, though. Doing so gives them greater control over their mail delivery options, but it requires an investment in time and effort to configure and run the server. Even small sites might want to use a local mail server to increase mail delivery options.

Before configuring a mail server, you should understand a bit of how mail delivery works. After you understand the theory, the first step you must take when running a mail server is configuring your Internet domain to accept the mail. You must also decide which mail server to run. Most distributions ship with mail server configurations that work reasonably well. This chapter covers three popular servers: sendmail, Postfix, and Exim. These servers accept incoming mail from your own or other sites. Another type of mail server delivers mail to mail clients. Two specific protocols and some popular packages for handling them are covered in this chapter. Unfortunately, the mail environment has become increasingly unfriendly, with unwanted messages polluting the e-mail waterways. Controlling such flow is an important consideration when you run your own mail server, so this chapter covers this topic. Finally, this chapter looks at a tool called Fetchmail, which enables you to acquire mail from an ISP's mail server and inject it into your local mail queue. This tool can be very helpful for individuals and small sites who use an ISP for mail delivery but who want the benefits of running a local mail server.

Note Mail server configuration is a complex topic. If you need to handle mail delivery for more than a few dozen users, or if advanced configurations are important, you should consult a book on the subject. Many titles are available, most on specific servers. Examples include Craig Hunt's Linux Sendmail Administration (Sybex, 2001), Richard Blum's Postfix (Sams, 2001), and Philip Hazel's Exim: The Mail Transfer Agent (O'Reilly, 2001).

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