Kerio MailServer 6.1.3 review

Price when reviewed

Kerio started this year by selling its personal firewall products to Sunbelt. This has allowed it to focus more on its core products, one of which is MailServer. Kerio has always targeted this product at small businesses that feel Microsoft’s Exchange is too complex and expensive for their tastes. At first glance, it looks like it could satisfy these demands. It’s been 18 months since we reviewed MailServer and, although there haven’t been any major changes to the software since then, the updates now make it worthy of a Recommended award. Key features are the anti-spam tools and the dual anti-virus scanning capabilities, as MailServer can use the integrated McAfee Anti-Virus and third-party plug-ins together.

Unlike Exchange, installation takes barely a minute or two and includes a Quick-Start wizard that requests details such as your administrative password and mail domain names. A big advantage of MailServer is support for any Windows system as the host, and there are also versions for Linux and Mac OS. The product consists of three main components, with the engine running as a background task, while a service monitor utility and administration console provide a status check and access for configuration.

Installing MailServer on a Windows Server 2003 domain controller proved to be easy enough, and we found the administrative console very intuitive. Its tree structure menu provides swift access to monitoring services, creating users and groups, setting up permissions, applying quotas to mailbox sizes and allowing specific users to access mail remotely using their mobiles. A webmail client is also provided, which Kerio reckons is as good as Outlook. It’s certainly designed similarly and provides plenty of features, including a full calendar, task and appointment scheduler, plus contact management.

Although the McAfee option does double the price of MailServer, it still looks good value. Checking a single box activates the McAfee engine, which scans both inbound and outbound messages. Signature and scanning engine updates can be scheduled to run as often as once an hour, as these are applied automatically. Testing with infected messages worked well and we found we could discard them, have them delivered but with the infection removed, or forward them to another address after filtering had been applied. Messages with content that can’t be scanned could be deleted, or sent with the offending item stripped out. Spam gets short shrift with Kerio’s SpamEliminator using the usual heuristic engines and Bayesian filters, but MailServer backs these up with the new Spam Repellant feature. This reduces the likelihood of spam ever being received, as it introduces a delay to the SMTP handshake process in the hope the sending server will give up and move on to the next target. Attachment filtering allows you to customise the predefined list of file extensions and decide which ones will be allowed through.

Microsoft Exchange may be a fully featured mail server, but its unwieldy nature doesn’t make it the best choice for many small businesses with limited IT support. Kerio hasn’t added many new features to MailServer over the past year, but its ease of use, features and the two-pronged anti-virus approach make it a worthy alternative that’s easy to manage.

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