Email server on DreamCompute

Questions like this have been asked before … I’m looking for a new solution for email needs. I’m doing a brain dump here of considerations, which I hope will help others as well as help me to find a good solution.

I’m paying for email for my primary business domain. This is because in the past DH had notoriously poor email services. All of that hullabaloo has died down and I’m now putting new domains that are not critical on DH email just to see how it goes.

As much as I’d like to feel comfortable putting all of my email on DH, we aren’t there yet, and there is some wisdom out there that suggests not putting email on the same service as web. So I’m considering self-hosting an email server on DreamHost. There is much more “don’t do that” advice on this topic than one would hope. I’m aware of all of that. So now I’m on the edge of dealing with DH limitations or DIY and enduring the pain.

What limitations?

  • When I detect a pattern for spam, I want to script a filter and quickly get it into a collection of such scripts. I don’t want to deal with a UI that has its own way of exposing each filter.
  • I really need an email API to setup disposable addresses for my own personal use.
    • In addition to paying for basic services, I also pay for awesome disposable address services. This allows me to use a different address for every website, newsletters, surveys, contests, restaurants, and rarely for posting in public. If I find someone has lost control of my address I can simply delete it … after ragging at the source of this privacy violation. I have hundreds of these addresses. I value this flexibility.
    • While I appreciate and respect Sneakemail, I feel a bit vulnerable, that if something happens to that one service I’ve now lost control over hundreds of contacts. So I want to use an API to maintain my email accounts.
    • Another issue with Sneakemail and similar services is that all it does is accept inbound mail, filter, and forward to another real account. I have to use Yahoo and Gmail for these real accounts because at some point RBLd Sneakemail, so my real primary business accounts could no longer receive all of that legitimate mail. I really want to be able to get all of this mail to my main address(es), and I don’t want DH to accidentally blacklist that domain because I’ll have no way to protect against it.
  • If DH gets RBL’d, I don’t want to be a victim of someone else’s carelessness or malice.
  • If I find a better tool to handle SMTP or IMAP or a better user agent, I want the freedom to be able to use it. We can’t do this with DH.
  • I want to shift from using huge MS Outlook PST files to IMAP, which means keeping a lot of data on the server. I want control over my data, including daily and easy to access backups, and indexes for rapid access. I want to be able to archive my data and then access the archives.

So I’ve been looking around, and among a ton of other options, I’ve been most impressed with Zimbra as a complete solution. It’s mature, versatile and extensible, well-supported, popular, and free and open source. Compare this to less mature options, more hacky, or individual solutions that need individual installation and maintenance. I’m kinda looking for the WordPress of email services so that I don’t need to do everything by hand.

With that, I’d like to know if anyone else is running Zimbra or other mail services in a DreamCompute instance. Aside from time requirements is there any special “gotcha” here?

What might be a fast deal-breaker here is that the strongly recommended RAM requirement for Zimbra is 8GB. The cost for that here would be $48 per month which is about what I’m paying per-year for email now. This is a high cost for freedom. The reason for the 8GB is in part that Zimbra has a lot of extra features that I don’t really need, like calendaring and file sharing.

To reduce that overhead I might be looking at another all-in-one solution, with fewer add-ons, more down to basics (something like Mail-In-A-Box). Or maybe a complete DIY with Postfix, Dovecot, Postgrey, SpamAssassin/rspamd, ClamAV, Amavis, BIND, SPF, DMARC, and/or whatever else might be needed.

I’m also considering repurposing an internal system just for email with Zimbra over CentOS, and then use an MTA like Postfix, for internet connectivity. Then there is no cost for the internal services, I can easily backup all data, and by locking down access from my DC instance to my internal box, behind firewall and VPN, the concerns for hacking are drastically reduced.

I’m hoping others with similar considerations will chime in here - and all suggestions are welcome. I really wish DH would offer a for-fee solution that would give us more flexibility than what we have now, but without trying to go full enterprise-ready like Zimbra, Kolab, Google Suite, etc. By exclusively providing free but limited services, they are serving a specific audience, but completely missing that next tier audience, hosted here and at every other host where people feel the same pain.


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