I really don't like administration tasks but i need a VPS (a naked Debian system - no control panels) for some reasons. One thing that scares me is the setup of the Mailserver - never done this before - never wanted to do it.

I would consider using a special account somewhere on a managed server which i refer with my MX record - but it seems to be a problem to send out emails from a server which is not a the registered one in the MX - spam filter seems to not like it.

And i need to use my own webserver because all the managed servers have really low email volumnes - like 500 per day which is useless for a newsletter.

So whats your advise?

5 Answers 5


I use Exim. In terms of configurability, I find it to be the most straightforward. Anything but Sendmail, really. Exim having built-in Perl is a HUGE plus in my opinion.


For a straightforward, command line managed, simple SMTP email server, I've used Postfix with very little problem.

For a slightly more complicated but very secure mail server you can look at Qmail.

Both once properly set up are fairly simple to run and fairly self-maintaining for the most part. The hard parts include getting logging set up, making sure your MX records are properly set up, and your relaying settings are properly configured. And of course backups.

Postfix is fairly nice to use in that it's easy to plug in things like ClamAV to scan for malware as well as block attachments that are executable and set limits on incoming file sizes. It's also fairly simple to plug in spam blocking and bayesian filtering.

Both of these mail servers are simple to manage from the command line.

Make sure you consider: redundancy (RAID?) backups monitoring (check logs for red flags, maybe nagios for disk space and CPU usages?) regular updates in case there are holes found that need to be plugged filtering (attachments, viruses)

Those are the bits I can think of off the top of my head. Mail servers are among the more intensive things at times to administrate because they do take regular monitoring and maintenance, and usually if it goes down it's very visible to the users and they'll get very upset at outages. If you're not one comfortable with adding it to your server monitoring or maintenance rotation, you may want to outsource it or have someone else do it for you. It's not all that horrible necessarily but if you have strong reservations about doing it then it may not be a task you want to tend to. Ignored mail servers become nice targets for abuse and spammers.

  • Well it doesn't help if it is fairly simple to run afterwards - thats just what i a severs job is. It's all about setting it up and i don't understand why this is so extremely complicated with the email server. I read some tutorials about postfix setup - hey guys it sucks huge. Isn't there something that can be learned and configured in 5 min like Hamster on Windows. Let the huge companies live with there Postfix but a special server just for a simple single VPS thats what i need.
    – Lothar
    Commented Sep 4, 2009 at 17:55
  • Sorry, I don't see what's so complicated. Email is primarily difficult because it's a simple protocol that scuzzballs have taken advantage of to spread spam and crack servers. So if you're going to administrate it, you need to learn about relaying, allowing certain IP's to use it, and how to implement spam filtering. Postfix is drop-dead simple compared to Sendmail, the traditional workhorse. And being simple after it runs doesn't mean you forget about it...there's a reason sysadmins get a paycheck. Commented Sep 5, 2009 at 1:44

You may wish to consider using Citadel. It is a breeze to install in Debian - apt-get install citadel.

It is more powerful than just an email server but it is still lightweight. In fact, once you start integrating some extra functions than just email (e.g. webmail, mailing lists), you will end up having to do lots of configuring of various software. Citadel is a one stop shop.


Why get into the server administration business if you don't have to (or don't want to, or have the budget to). Use a mailer service such as MailChimp to send out your newsletter. It is free for up to 500 subscribers (3000 a month).

  • Well and it gets expensive quickly. Consider a mailing list with 3000 users and 10 messages a day - not that much, neither in email, data transfer volume and CPU time but asking a provider for 30000 emails per day - they start robbing your money. And i know how to handle lighttpd, vsftpd and mysql - it's just the email server that worries me.
    – Lothar
    Commented Sep 4, 2009 at 17:59
  • +1 for using a hosted service like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. It's not just about getting an SMTP server that will take the volume of emails, it's also about a good statistics system to monitor effect, a built-in unsubscription system that is compliant with regs, and know-how about how to not appear to be spam.
    – user2874
    Commented Sep 4, 2009 at 18:07

Most likely any VPS plan you get will already have either Sendmail or Postfix (or both). It's probably turned off by default, so it's just a matter of turning it on and set up relaying. Postfix would be the easiest to configure, so if you have a choice, go with Postfix over Sendmail.

qmail has a loyal following, but it's NOT software I'd ever recommend for a newbie. Installing qmail is a daunting task. Read the install chapter of Life With Qmail if you don't believe me: http://www.lifewithqmail.org/ - qmail even takes pride in the fact that there's no automated installer and you need to be an experienced admin to begin with.

  • 1
    When I make breakfast, I mold a bowl from potting clay instead of just buying them at the store, and then I forge a spoon from steel. I prefer to keep it real whenever possible. Qmail sounds right up my alley. Commented Sep 4, 2009 at 17:58

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