Kerio Connect 7 Beta

OLder version. See Kerio Connect instead.

Kerio is renaming its mailserver to "Kerio Connect". My initial reaction is that changing "Mailserver" to "Connect" is a bad idea. They feel that because the product is so much more than a mailserver, changing the name is appropriate.

I do partly agree. Many of my customers only use the email features and ignore all of the collaboration aspects. Sometimes that's because they see no need for scheduling, etc. and sometimes it's because they just never noticed those capabilities (someone only using POP or IMAP, for example).

Well, regardless of how I feel about it, the next release will be Kerio Connect. It's in beta now and looks solid enough that its release is likely not very far way, so let's take a look at what it offers.

Message Retention

A few releases back Kerio introduced scheduled administrative deletion of Junk and Deleted Items messages. With Kerio Connect 7, this has been extended to include all folders (except Contacts, for obvious reasons). You can set a policy that automatically deletes all messages domain-wide after so many years.

I don't see this as particularly useful for most companies. First, it's only domain-wide - at least right now, this hasn't been brought to individual users as the control of Junk and Deleted is now. Some users may need to keep some email (or particularly specific email folders) forever. I think this needs more fine-grained control to be useful.

Distributed Domains

One of the first features I noticed is distributed domains. From the manual:

If your company uses more Kerio Connect servers physically scattered (located in different cities, countries, continents), you can now add them to a cluster and move all users across all servers involved into a single email domain (distributed domain).

Note that this isn't load balancing. One server is the master point where all incoming email arrives; it is responsible for relaying any that belong at a satellite server. The "slave" servers should have the master set as their relay also if you want single-point archiving and backup.

The "Master /Slave" designation is arbitrary. All servers are really peer to peer and use the same directory service. You determine which servers mailboxes belong on which server and which is the master. Obviously that would need to be the server that is set as the MX for the domain also.

Message Submission service

You'll find this in Services, set to run on port 587. Kerio suggests using this to get around the problem of outgoing port 25 being blocked at hotels and public access points. The user sets his outgoing SMTP port to 587 and the Kerio server listens on that. As this service requires authentication, it can't be used by spammers - unless they've hacked the user's account, of course, but at least we do then absolutely know the source of the spam!

The Message Submission service is defined in RFC 2476 and has much more to do with mail architecture than just bypassing blocked ports. This FAQ: SMTP Message Submission to Proposed Standard describes the reasoning behind the RFC.

Performance improvements

The release notes say:

Kerio Connect uses a more efficient file access method to the message store data. This includes the properties.fld database access and listing mailbox folders.

That doesn't tell us much, does it?

The "properties.fld" file is apparently IMAP annotation data. It's interesting to look at what these metadata files are:

index.fld:      ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators
properties.fld: Berkeley DB 1.85/1.86 (Btree, version 3, little-endian)
search.fld:     SQLite 2.x database
status.fld:     ASCII text, with CRLF line terminators

But that still doesn't tell us how any of this helps speed up file access.

Kerio has a problem with very large mailbox folders. They store individual mail messages rather than packing them all into one database as Exchange does. I think that's the right approach, but it can cause performance issues. These files are designed to help that by providing a mix: database files pointing to individual messages. Apparently this release has made some changes in this area; we'll see if it helps very large folders.

I'd much prefer to see domain or user controlled folder archiving. I'm not referring to the archiving found in Archiving and Backup but rather moving older messages into another folder at regular intervals. For example, if this were set for monthly archiving, everything in your Inbox from last month would be moved to Inbox-2009-09. But that's not a feature of this release and may never be.

Web Administration

With Kerio Connect 7, you can now do all administrative functions through your web browser. For example, on the server itself, I can connect to http://localhost/admin.

This actually runs on port 4040 and there's no control over that in Administration. However, it is listed in mailserver.cfg, so you could adjust this as necessary.

Speaking of config files, there's a new cluster.cfg file. I assume that is for the distributed domains mentioned earlier, but there is also an undocumented Cluster section in the mailserver.cfg, so bigger plans may be afoot. That's pure speculation, of course.

The web administration is very useful - it's not that it's at all difficult to download the free administrative console, but having this available from any web browser is handy,

Additional changes

The release notes mention over-the-air synchronization of HTC Hero mobile devices and that the IMAP server has been improved for better support of multi-session IMAP connections. You'll be able to rename a domain also. That seems to be about it.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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