SmarterMail 17 - What's on the Horizon

SmarterMail 17 - What's on the Horizon

UPDATED on February 13th, 2018.

As some of you may know, we’re in the process of working on SmarterMail 17.x, which will roll out in Q1 2018. Here is what we are working on:

MAPI

First and foremost: MAPI. And, to be exact, MAPI over HTTP. Now, some of you may be wondering what MAPI is. Put VERY simply: the MAPI protocol offers native integration between Microsoft Outlook and any mail server that supports the MAPI protocol. That means you’ll be getting true Microsoft Exchange functionality via SmarterMail and Outlook when using the MAPI protocol! This includes the things you’re used to, such as sharing email folders, calendars, contacts, tasks and notes as well as additional items like sharing secondary calendars, creating personal distribution lists and much more!

So, with SmarterMail 17.x, here’s all of the synchronization options and protocols users will have available to them when using a variety of clients:

Windows Clients MAPI EAS EWS IMAP POP WebDAV
Outlook 2013+** X - - X X -
Windows Mail - X - X X -
Outlook 2010 and earlier - - - X X -
eM Client - - X X X X
Thunderbird - _ - X X -
**Microsoft has released updates for Outlook 2013 and above that offers support for MAPI over HTTP, so that is what we’re targeting for our release.

 

MacOS Clients MAPI EAS EWS IMAP POP WebDAV
Outlook 2013+ - - X X X -
Apple Mail - - X X X X
Spark - - - X X -

 

Mobile Clients MAPI EAS EWS IMAP POP WebDAV
iOS Clients - X - X X X
Android Clients - X X X X X

 

And best of all: we’re integrating MAPI at the server level. This means offering true MAPI integration just as Microsoft provides it in Exchange…unlike some of the competing products out there, which require a plugin or software installation on every users’ computer.

Licensing information will be provided in the near future. We are working with Microsoft on how we can distribute and provide this functionality to our customers, just as we did for EAS and EWS. Both of those protocols are licensed from Microsoft, and MAPI will be similar.

Why are we implementing MAPI now?

Previously, Microsoft decided to provide EAS in Outlook for Windows and EWS in Outlook for Mac. In addition, both of these would work on mobile devices, thereby making it very easy to sync your mobile devices AND desktop clients to your mailbox. Therefore, it was our intention to support EAS and EWS because it meant that, at least for most users, a single protocol would work across multiple devices, regardless of the client and operating system being used. That meant simple and affordable access to your account, from anywhere. However, over the last year or more, Microsoft has been removing the ability to use EAS with Outlook for desktops, while keeping its use solely for mobile devices. This obviously complicates our desire for a single protocol solution for users. MAPI, therefore, was the logical choice for handling desktop sychronization.

IMPROVED SHARING

Another benefit of the work we're doing with MAPI is it gives us the opportunity to look at other areas within SmarterMail and figure out ways to improve them and make them more efficient. Sharing is one such area we're going to update in SmarterMail 17.x. In addition, we'll be making these improvements across all areas: webmail as well as the various protocols available, for any feature supported by that protocol.

What kind of improvements are we talking about? Well, things like offering up the ability to share personal calendars, contacts, tasks and notes. That means sharing not just your primary calendar, for example, but also other calendars you create. This will carry over to other "shared" items, such as folders, tasks and notes.

We're also looking at simplifying the sharing process to accommodate a wide variety of resources. That means a cleaner, more logical layout and process for sharing these various items with others.

The goal with our MAPI implementation is to match Outlook and Microsoft Exchange functionality as closely as possible. That said, we will look at all areas, and all protocols, with the same goal in mind.

AUTHENTICATION UPDATES

SmarterMail 17.x will introduce two factor authentication (2FA) for logging into webmail and "app passwords" for users who log into their account from a third-party client!

Now some of you may not be aware of what 2FA is. Essentially, instead of simply using your username and password to log into SmarterMail, a second system is used as another form of authentication for your account. For example, something like Google/Android Authentication. With 2FA, once you log into webmail with your password, SmarterMail will prompt you to input a code from the Android device that acts as a second form of authentication for your account. It’s a simple thing, but it provides an extra layer of security, further locking down access to your crucial information.

And while we’re using Google Authentication as the example, our 2FA feature will follow the RFC standard, so other methods will be supported too, including Microsoft Authenticator or third-party apps like FeeOTP. Each of these could be used to provide a second layer of authentication, allowing you to access your SmarterMail account with extra security.

For people using third-party clients, 2FA isn't supported. However, SmarterMail 17 will allow users to create passwords that they can use for specific applications. These "app passwords" give a mobile and/or desktop email client persmission to access your mailbox. In addition, SmarterMail will support sending an email with an authentication code to a secondary email address.

Offering both 2FA and app passwords allow for a very granular level of security for users and admins who are worried about access to private information.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

  • Ever want to create a content filter then run it immediately? Well, in 17.x you’ll be able to do just that! Currently, any content filter you create is run from that moment forward. However, in 17.x you’ll be able to run content filters, on demand, with the press of a button.
  • SmarterMail 17.x will also bring with it our own integrated video chat! With the work we’re doing implementing WebRTC (web-based Real Time Communication) we’ll be bringing our own communications platform into SmarterMail, which eliminates the need to use a third party service. With WebRTC, Team Workspaces will be completely self contained!
  • Have you ever sent an email...then immediately regretted sending it? In SmarterMail 17.x we’ll be introducing an “unsend/recall” feature! Therefore you can STOP a message from going out, then revise it, revisit it, re-word it or simply NOT send it at all. You’ll also be able to “schedule” when an email is actually sent. For example, “send after 5 minutes” or even “send at 8:00 p.m." UPDATE: This has been rescheduled for a later release.
  • While you can create recurring appointments in webmail, if you have an event that needs to be made “on demand” across non-sequential days in the coming weeks or months, you have to re-create that appointment ON those days from scratch. In SmarterMail 17.x, you’ll be able to clone an event and then create your NEW event, on whatever day you need to, based on your original one.
  • Need to print your daily, weekly or monthly calendar? What about printing your Agenda view? In SmarterMail 17.x, you’ll be able to do just that!
  • Have you wanted to reply to a meeting request with a question or comment? Have you ever SENT a meeting request and WANTED attendees to reply with comments? That’s coming in SmarterMail 17.x.

SMARTERMAIL OPTIMIZATIONS

With each release of SmrterMail we strive to continually increase speed and performance, as well as add in ways to help increase hardwared performance for SmarterMail servers. SmarterMail 17.x is no exception.

One of the first sets of changes revolves around IMAP. Even though you can use a number of different protocols for accessing your SmarterMail account, IMAP is by far the most used. So, one of the changes we'll be adding to SmarterMail 17 is the implementation of IMAP "stores". This makes synchronizing SmarterMail across various IMAP accounts/clients MUCH faster and much more consistent.

The use of IMAP stores will dramatically reduce the amount of time a client will need to query the SmarterMail server for new messages, as well as reduce the bandwidth and disk i/o necessary. SmarterMail administrators who have significant IMAP users should see a significant improvement in overall server utilization. In addition, high-growth businesses who frequently add domains and users, use of this extensions will help squeeze some extra performance out of your servers, adding to their overall lifespan before you need to upgrade.

In addition to the improvements to IMAP, we're also going to be converting all configuration files from .XML files to .JSON files. This conversion will make writing and loading those files MUCH faster. They'll also be more readable and easier to use for future expansion.

ADDITIONAL ADMINISTRATION FEATURES

Administrators, we haven't forgotten about you!

  • As a system admin, there are times when you need to swap out an IP address for a domain, or for the mail server as a whole. For example, you’re given one by your service provider that already has a bad IP reputation. In SmarterMail 17.x, you’ll be able to swap IPs on the fly, either manually or after a certain set of criteria are met!
  • While SmarterMail already offers brute force protection, the ability to change those detection settings currently requires you to edit the web.config file. In SmarterMail 17.x you’ll be able to modify those settings right from the web interface.
  • As a domain administrator, do you wonder what limitations have been set for a domain by the system admin? In 17.x those system administrator settings/limitations will be available to you in a domain’s details.
  • The SmarterMail login page will have an editable page title, allowing you to further customize and brand the webmail interface for users. For example, instead of saying “SmarterMail 17.x” as the page title, it can say “Your Company’s Email”. This will be able to be done at the system AND the domain level!
  • Need a custom header so that SmarterMail works better with something like a third-party spam appliance? Want to add a custom header to a message for routing purposes? System admins will be able to create custom headers right from the web interface! Update: This task has changed. Instead of creating custom headers from the SmarterMail interface, we have, instead, created a Visual Studio Project that, once compiled and installed, runs as a Windows service that will monitor the proc folder and modify HDR files as needed. This Project can be edited however you want, and can be edited and reused as needed. More information on how to do this can be found in the KB article: Adding Custom Headers to Email Messages.
  • The Domain Defaults template will again show Inbound Message Delivery settings and allow domains to be created, or the setting propagated, with Local or External (use MX record) delivery!

A NOTE ABOUT SINGLE SIGN ON (SSO)

Our intention for SmarterMail 17.x was to introduce single sign-on for webmail. However, during out planning and partial implementation of SSO, we changed the scope a bit. As it stands, implementing SSO would only affect webmail access to SmarterMail. People using email clients aren't able to use SSO. Instead, they'd use the app passwords features of two-factor authentication that we discussed, above.

There's no doubt that, over the last couple of years, SSO has become more and more popular. So much so that a number of large companies have started providing SSO services: Facebook, LastPass, Google, Microsoft (Azure)...and now: SmarterTools!

You read that correctly: SmarterTools will become a SSO provider. We feel that because SmarterMail fills such a vital role for many companies it makes sense to become a provider versus implementing the variety of other providers out there. Users already log in to SmarterMail, so use of their SmarterMail credentials for logging in to other services gives them the flexibility, and security, inherent to SSO. More information on this will be forthcoming.

So there you have it: this is a look at some of the major features we have planned for SmarterMail 17.x, as well as a peak at what we're planning for SmarterMail 18.x. As you can see, the decisions surrounding what makes the final cut and is included in the initial public release are extremely fluid and dictated by the development process. Time plays a major factor, obviously, so for now, this is what we’re planning to include. (The above as well as other, less major changes.)

SmarterMail 16.x was a HUGE step for us as the time we took to rebuild SmarterMail is what is going to make a LOT of these changes possible. We weren't kidding when we said that 16.x was the built for the future...the items above, and the other features we have planned, are the perfect indication of how true that statement was.