SmarterMail for Linux BETA

With the BETA of SmarterMail for Linux fast approaching, we wanted to offer up some information about what to expect from the BETA, and hit a few things we're still working on regarding the future public release.

This BETA will be a little different than past ones as it will entail BETAS for both Linux and Windows. We're doing this for a very simple reason: Both versions of SmarterMail use the EXACT same code base! We've been able to make some accommodations within the SmarterMail code for the uniqueness of the Linux environment.

Quick Caveat: We generally don't encourage or recommend that BETA software be run in production environments. While past BETAS have been stable enough for those of you who were "bleeding edge" adopters to put on your production servers, we STRONGLY recommend this BETA be tested in actual test environments and NOT in a production environment, at least for the first several BETA releases.

Installation of the BETA for Linux

For Windows users, the installation process for the BETA is the same as it always has been. For those wanting to test on Linux, the installation process is extremely simple and very straightforward. (Those of you with CLI experience can combine/merge commands as you see fit.) From your command prompt:

  1. $ wget -- this downloads the installer
  2. $ chmod +x smartermail_XXXX -- this marks the download as executable (smartermail_XXXX is the downloaded filename)
  3. $ sudo ./smartermail install -- this installs SmarterMail
Linux distros supported by .NET

Currently, you can install SmarterMail on Ubuntu or Debian on a server or VM using an x86 processor. We'll be evaluating installing on ARM processors as the BETA progresses. More distros are planned in the future, and we'll be following the .NET support and compatibility for Linux Distributions guidelines. (see the dotnet / core Git repository for more info.) That means, for example that we'll support Ubuntu 20.04 and above, Debian 11 and above, etc. which will, more or less, mirror our support of Windows Server. The really cool thing is that the installation process will actually understand the distro being run, and do what it needs to to to install itself on the version of Linux being run.

In addition to installing SmarterMail, ClamAV is installed, as well as other dependencies (curl, etc.), ports are opened, and permissions are set properly. Then the SmarterMail service is moved to /ext/system/system. Once the installation is finalized, the installer will check to make sure HTTP and SMTP are open and accessible outside the server. If not, you'll see a warning in the installation process.

Regarding the installation, SmarterMail will run as 'root', by default. There are certainly times you'll want to run as 'root', like when doing a migration. So, we will be providing a KB on how to switch to running SmarterMail as a user if you want to secure your installation a bit more. That said, we suggest NOT doing that until later in the BETA, once we have things documented. But, we figured it would be a question during the BETA, so we wanted to bring it up. We're also in the process of making SmarterMail migrations (and installs) more resilient from a permissions standpoint, ensuring perms are set properly to avoid any potential for errors or issues.

Managing SmarterMail for Linux

Managing your SmarterMail installation on Linux is the same as managing it on Windows: you use whatever web browser you want. By default, you can access your installation by opening a browser and going to http://localhost/ (or use the IP address if you connect using a different computer on your network), where you can set up your system administrator account, then log in and start adding domains and users. The setup process for Linux will look VERY familiar as it mirrors, exactly, the setup process on Windows. In fact, you won't know what OS SmarterMail runs on, as a system admin, domain admin, or webmail user. (Well, the system admin may.)

If you don't want to use a browser, the SmarterMail API is open and scripts can be created to manage the server. In fact, most Linux administrators may want to use this method, especially if they already have scripts created for automating things like adding domains, setting domain and user defaults, adding users to domains, etc.

Migrating to Linux

Converting to SmarterMail for Linux

If you're planning to use an existing SmarterMail installation to test out SmarterMail for Linux, it's an easy migration. Essentially, all you need to do is move SmarterMail's settings, domains, and domain archive folders to your Linux machine, start the SmarterMail service, and SmarterMail will begin the conversion process. You can log in to the web interface, and the Conversion page will be displayed, which guides you through the entire migration. This, too, will look familiar to long-time SmarterMail users as we have used a similar page, and similar process, when upgrading older versions of SmarterMail on Windows to newer versions. The wizard goes through, step-by-step, and converts file paths and other items, displaying what's going on the entire time. If an error is encountered, it's displayed so you can quickly and easily smooth out the rough edges and complete the conversion. Once it finishes, make any IP changes you need to for testing, and SmarterMail is ready to go on your Linux box!

Windows Expectations

As mentioned, we're using the same code base for both Windows and Linux versions of SmarterMail. That means you can BETA test the Windows version of SmarterMail alongside the Linux version! However, since SmarterMail had been running for decades on Windows, customers can expect these early BETAs to be much more stable on Windows than Linux. We have had both versions running in production environments (Windows and Linux) for some time, and while we're continuing to optimize SmarterMail for Linux, the Windows version has those years of experience behind it. When we're done, SmarterMail will be a better, faster and more capable product on BOTH Windows and Linux, all based on a single code base!

BETA Participation

We are beyond excited to be able to FINALLY make SmarterMail available for Linux. As such, we strongly encourage anyone who is interested to participate in the BETA, and then participate in our Community to discuss the BETA. In fact, we have already started the discussion!

As with any BETA, our developers will be taking a great interest in the threads addressing issues, suggestions, and comments surrounding the BETA, and will be participating in these discussions. Therefore, YOUR participation is extremely important to make sure we've dotted all of the "I's" and crossed all the "T's".

BETA Timeline

We are scheduled to release the BETA on April 30th and it will run several weeks as we're venturing into somewhat uncharted territory. We've tested and tested installs and running SmarterMail on Linux extensively over the last few months, but there's always something someone finds that we didn't think of based on how they have their own systems configured, or what else may be running on a test server.

In addition, we've staffed up and have expanded our business hours: our offices are now open Monday - Friday, from 7:00am to 5:00pm. It's important for SmarterTools to maintain our high level of service for existing customers as well as introduce new to customers to a supportive, competent partner. With our fast response times, and our knowledgeable and professional team of developers and administrators, SmarterTools can truly help businesses a number of ways.

Finally, SmarterMail has long been one of the largest mail servers on Windows, and the release of SmarterMail for Linux will expose a HUGE, untapped market to the ONLY alternative for Microsoft Exchange. Linux administrators won't know what to do with all of the features and functionality SmarterMail has to offer.