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Is it ever good practice to separate website hosting from email hosting for a single domain, via virtualization?

Example:

A dedicated server hosts a single domain, xyz.com

This server runs a web application, which is publicly available via xyz.com

The server also hosts xyz.com IMAP email accounts.

Two VPSs could be set up on the dedicated server - one for hosting the web application, and one for the email accounts. This would presumably safeguard the email accounts from any potential problems derived from the web application.

Is this done much in practice, and if so what is the best method of going about this? I was thinking Virtuozzo + Plesk. However my problem with this approach is the disconnect between the two control panels. It would be ideal to set up the domain in a single location which took effect in both virtual environments.

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3 Answers 3

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Virtualization or not, it is very common to separate incoming mail service from web service. As you say, it's a layer of protection against the web server becoming compromised, for example. It also separates out the load patterns; an overloaded mail system won't take down your outward facing web server, and vice versa.

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I wouldn't bother splitting them up. Regular unix accounts, along with proper security precautions, should provide sufficient protection.

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You hadn't mentioned how big your domain is (how many people, etc.) but in practice you want to also have backup MX "spool-and-forward" mail servers also online in case the primary becomes unavailable. Companies such as DynDNS.com can provide very inexpensive, spam-catching solutions for your setup that takes little effort to get going.

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