A flexible gateway for Internet mail and Microsoft Mail

When you're sending and receiving Internet mail from a Windows NT-based network, you have two good choices. You can use a traditional UNIX-style mail server with Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and Post Office Protocol (POP). An NT server uses SMTP and optionally POP to relay mail between the Internet and client PCs running any garden-variety email program, such as Eudora or Pegasus

Alternatively, you can implement a mail gateway between the Internet and a local proprietary mail system, such as Microsoft Mail. The gateway relies on SMTP and POP to send and receive mail to and from the Internet. But instead of interfacing directly with the client systems, the gateway forwards mail to and from the local mail system, which interfaces with the client systems. MailNet 3.1 by Consensys Computers uses this approach.

So why use a mail gateway? First, if you've invested in a proprietary mail system, you don't want to throw away that implementation. Second, if you deploy or want to deploy mail-enabled applications such as group schedulers and shared calendars, you'll find that most group-oriented applications depend on Microsoft Mail or a similar proprietary mail system and are incompatible with SMTP and POP mail delivery systems. Finally, many proprietary mail systems offer features that you can't get with SMTP and POP solutions. Such features are the ability to imbed Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) objects in a message. If your situation falls into one of these categories and Microsoft Mail is your proprietary mail system, look at MailNet.

In the Lab with MailNet
Installing and configuring Consensys MailNet is much simpler than installing and setting up Microsoft Mail. You need a good working knowledge of your Internet connection (and associated email interface) and Microsoft Mail. MailNet's documentation is a little thin, but adequately describes the installation and configuration process.

MailNet is a native NT software product that provides gateway services between Microsoft Mail and the Internet. MailNet uses SMTP to send mail to the Internet and can use either SMTP or POP3 to receive mail from the Internet. The Internet connection can be permanent (a leased line) or a Remote Access Service (RAS) connection such as a dial-up or Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) connection initiated at regular intervals. When you use MailNet with a scheduled connection, it provides a convenient way of sending and receiving Internet mail without requiring a dedicated (and expensive) Internet connection.

Interfacing MailNet with Microsoft Mail is slightly more complicated than with the Internet because MailNet supports two methods of exchanging mail with Microsoft Mail. With the first method, you upgrade a Microsoft Mail post office to a "gateway post office." You ordinarily use this approach for an NT-based network. In this case, MailNet adds software that works at the Microsoft Mail server-level to accommodate bidirectional Internet access. You don't need any changes at the client level, so any standard Microsoft Mail client platform (i.e., OS/2, Macintosh, MS-DOS, Windows 3.X, Windows 95, and NT) can participate in Internet mail. Client-side users address mail to the Internet with the format \[smtp:user@domain.com\].

The second method uses Microsoft's Messaging API (MAPI). With this approach, on the client systems, you load software that Consensys provides. This software lets MailNet deliver Internet mail directly to the client systems. It also lets you address Internet mail from the client system with the format \[user@domain.com\] and route the mail through the Microsoft Mail server to MailNet, which forwards the mail to the Internet. Consensys provides client software only for Windows 3.X and Win95 platforms. Consensys designed this approach for the post office system that comes with Windows for Workgroups.

You select the method to use (gateway or MAPI) during the initial configuration. Screen 1 shows MailNet's key configuration dialog. You can use the MailNet Administration program to view and change all options on this dialog.

You configure the association of Microsoft Mail usernames to Internet mail usernames with the MailNet Administration program. It lets you control which users have Internet access, and you can establish aliases for Internet email addresses.

For example, you can set up general addresses such as info, sales, or marketing that route to multiple Microsoft Mail users. Remember, however, that you must establish your Internet email addresses with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). MailNet can map the addresses you establish in the context of one Internet domain (usually your domain, which your ISP administers).

Another important aspect of MailNet is how it handles attachments (files transmitted with the message text). For mail coming from the Internet, MailNet automatically translates MIME and UUencoded attachments into Microsoft Mail attachments. For mail going to the Internet, MailNet can translate Microsoft Mail attachments into either MIME or UUencoded attachments. MailNet cannot translate an outgoing attachment into both MIME and UUencoded format. The MailNet Administrator lets you configure the translation scheme (MIME or UUencoded) for outgoing mail.

Balance Your Needs
In today's business world, the need to send and receive Internet mail is often critical. In most business environments, you must balance this need against the company's internal mail system needs. MailNet 3.1 lets you leverage Microsoft Mail against your internal mail requirements without compromising your need for Internet mail. In that sense, MailNet brings you the best of both worlds.

MailNet
Consensys Computers * 905-940-2900
Email: sales@consensys.com
Web: http://www.consensys.com
Price: $745 (15 client licenses)