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Kerio Connect 7 review

Our Rating :

The best mail server, with support for almost every kind of client.

Hardly crowded, the mail server market is dominated by Microsoft’s Exchange server and open-source competitors, including those tailored by Apple and shipped in Mac OS X Server. None is particularly friendly, making considerable demands on their administrators’ expertise. Kerio Connect 7, the latest incarnation of Kerio Mail Server, takes on the competition by trying to be simplest and most flexible in administration, and by offering the widest and deepest support for clients.

As with its predecessors, it installs and runs just as well on Mac OS X clients as on costly Mac OS X Servers, from a self-contained subfolder to /usr/local. Inevitably, it benefits from plenty of fast hard disk space and will readily scale from supporting a dozen or so users on a minimal Mac mini to a whole large organisation on a dedicated desktop or Xserve. If that isn’t enough, or you have offices dotted around the globe, you can now join individual Connect 7 servers into a distributed domain cluster. Kerio has a deserved reputation for working well no matter how large or small your network.

Administration can be performed either using a dedicated application, or through its browser interface, greatly simplifying remote control and security problems opening firewall ports to allow such remote access. Although Kerio advises a limited list of suitable browsers, it was fully accessible to everything we threw at it. If you think that administration requires trudging through pages of arcane options, then Connect will be a revelation. Your coffee won’t grow cold in the time it takes to set up and add several dozen users, and there are helpful import options to make this even quicker.

What you get is much more than a mail server: it exceeds Exchange in its facilities for address book sharing and synchronisation, calendar services and protocol support, including excellent webmail (and address book and calendar) access from Macs, Windows and Linux, as well as almost any mobile phone or similar device. Kerio has added support for Web OS, Android, Palm Pre and Pixi, Google Nexus One, and more.

Clients are encouraged to install small configuration tweaks to iCal, Microsoft Entourage and the like to get the best out of this, but Kerio has gone out of its way to make this as flexible and simple as possible. For instance, support for iCal under Tiger is accomplished through a downloadable two-way synchronisation connector; under Leopard it can be achieved merely though use of a standard account URL, or better through a small installed configuration tweak. In addition, you can manually import a calendar into iCal without synchronisation, or subscribe to a calendar on a read-only basis.

Address Book synchronisation and sharing is also taken care of according to the version of Mac OS X running on the client. Mobile device users are offered the SSL certificate that allows them to connect as far as their device allows, and to crown it all there’s full Google Calendar support, too. For the future, Connect implements the new CardDAV protocol for address book synchronisation across a wide range of systems.

Neither has the mail server core been neglected. Already rich in advanced features, such as spam filtering and virus scanning, Connect is one of the few products to come with mature email archiving and backup as standard, and these have been enhanced with a retention policy that can automatically delete old items according to preset policies. No matter how long your list of desirable features, Connect is likely to sport them all, from Pop and Imap to fully configurable SMTP forwarding. Not only that, but its administration interface will make it simple for you to use those features, which is often half the battle, as shown so clearly in Sendmail. Mail servers are hardly sexy, but Kerio Connect 7 is such a good product that it can’t fail to excite. If you run or have ever thought of running your own mail server, you must put it at the top of your shortlist.

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