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I'm building a site and I'd like to use a VPS for a variety of reasons (Scalability, I'd like to run Sphinx for search, etc.). I'm slowly learning how to administer a server by playing with "my pet linux" in a VM on my laptop, so I think I'll be reasonably ok there - at least until I a) fold the site for doing so poorly, b) can afford to have someone help me out when I need it.

Where I really fall down, though, is mail. I "know" I need it, but I'm not sure how to administer it, or if there are other options.

Here are my use cases I can think of off the top of my head:

  1. Sending/receiving feedback and other emails as my site. I.e. as rather than a gmail address.
  2. Account verification on signup - confirmation links and the like.
  3. Eventually, I think I'll want to be able to send emails sort of like stackoverflow does for question responses. Totally opt-in, but it seems like a nice to have (especially since it might help bring people back who forgot about the site for whatever reason). This means interop with PHP, which I assume is pretty trivial once the server is functioning anyway.

Linode has a tutorial that seems relatively easy to follow for getting the basics setup, but is this really the right direction to take?

I'm open to alternatives, such as free/cheap third party services or tools, but if you can suggest a good easy-to-setup/admin email server to run on my web server, with some tutorials I could follow to get it running, that would be appreciated.

Having written my use cases above, I suppose a case could be made for my not actually needing email at the start. I could use for feedback-type emails, and possibly not bother with email confirmations for accounts (a la reddit) since I'd never be able to keep up with blacklisting "mailinator" type sites anyway.


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Why is this a CW? – Chris S Sep 15 '10 at 19:05
@Chris S: Because I figured "best" was subjective. While I think the information is useful and belongs here, I didn't think I should be taking rep from it. – AgentConundrum Sep 16 '10 at 8:45
but you asked a question about your specific situation; it's not just general knowledge. It also not subjective because you're not asking us to compare two different e-mail systems without qualification as to how "best" should be applied. – Chris S Sep 16 '10 at 13:49
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Yes I think Google Apps will do the job. add it to your domain for free and you can use its smtp server in your code and even get the replies and support questions in a comfty gmail interface :)

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He said he didn't want gmail, Google Apps is just gmail with a prettier face. – Hugo Sep 15 '10 at 16:09
sounds to me like he doesn't want addresses. He said nothing about Gmail hosting directly. – David Mackintosh Sep 15 '10 at 18:49
@David: Correct. Before I came here, I wasn't even aware of Google Apps/Gmail for domains. This definitely seems like the best idea for two reasons: 1) I'm looking at WebFaction for initial hosting, and they're setup so you can't use mail(). If I'm already outsourcing to an external SMTP server, it might as well be google. 2) If I ever get to the point where I outgrow google (which means emailing 25k people a day - 50 accounts * 500 unique addresses), hosting my own mail server will be a small concern. – AgentConundrum Sep 16 '10 at 8:50
Addendum: I know WebFaction isn't a VPS, but a friend of mine talked me into starting with shared, and WebFaction seems pretty customizable, with shell/ssh access and the ability to install Sphinx if I need it. – AgentConundrum Sep 16 '10 at 8:54

I would strongly recommend outsourcing to GMail or GMail for domains. Mail management is not fun. (See here.)

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I'm not usually a fan of outsourcing email but this is one area where it might fit - you have fairly small requirements and you're not an email admin. I mean your summary at the bottom redefines the problem from "Is outsourcing right for you" to "Do I even need a 'pro' outsourced email setup with my own domain name or will gmail do".

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Setting up a basic postfix locally on the machine should be pretty simple. If you run Ubuntu and do an apt-get install postfix, the installer will ask you what kind of setup you want. If you use "Internet Site", you'll probably be good for now. As far as I can see, you only want to send out mail, so a whole postfix/courier/mysql setup is overkill. As long as you make sure that you don't setup an open relay, you're fine (which postfix isn't by default).

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