SMTP/POP3 email the easy way

seattle Lab recently added Seattle Lab mail for NT (SLmailNT) to its line of highly capable Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) mail products. You can trace SLmailNT's genealogy back to the well-respected 16-bit Windows shareware product, WinSMTP. Seattle Lab entered into an agreement with the author of WinSMTP to produce commercial, 32-bit versions of the software, and the results of these efforts are SLmail95 and SLmailNT. SLmailNT provides a robust email link between a desktop and the Internet (or any large TCP/IP-based network for that matter). SLmailNT uses SMTP to send mail to and receive it from the Internet and uses POP3 to deliver mail to and from the desktop environment. The software handles mail generation and reading on the user's desktop with the same mail software (e.g., Eudora or Pegasus) that handles POP3 traffic.

Why Use SLmailNT?
Why would you want to set up an SMTP/POP3 system between your user desktops and the Internet? You can, after all, have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) handle your domain account, and all your desktop users can access mail from the ISP mail servers with POP3. The answers are cost and control. First, having an ISP maintain mail services for each of your desktops can be expensive. Second, if your ISP handles your user accounts, you can't have complete control--you have to rely on your ISP to add, change, or delete users as your organization changes.

Alternatively, if you deploy an SMTP/POP3 system, it can handle all the mail for your domain. If I deploy an SMTP/POP3 server for Windows NT Magazine, it can handle mail for all the users assigned to the winntmag.com domain. The SMTP link to the Internet routes traffic for all winntmag.com users, and POP3 disseminates individual user traffic to specific desktops. I can then manage individual accounts (the accounts that POP3 delivery handles) as I see fit, without affecting the configuration of the SMTP link to the Internet. SLmailNT provides this level of control.

Install, Configure, and Use
I downloaded SLmailNT version 2.0 from Seattle Lab's Web site at www.seattlelab.com and installed it on a Dell OptiPlex system running Windows NT Server 3.51 and NT Server 4.0. For Internet-based mail, SLmailNT relies on your domain name and your (or your ISP's) Domain Name System (DNS) service to get around. So I recommend that you configure and test your Internet connection and domain assignment before you install SLmailNT. If you're not going to use Internet-based mail, you just need to have the TCP/IP protocol installed and running under NT.

The SLmailNT installation and setup dialogs are straightforward. SLmailNT retrieves your computer name and IP address from your current TCP/IP protocol settings and prompts you for the name (or IP address) of the name server you want SLmailNT to use and the name (or IP address) of an optional smart host. The smart host field caught me off guard. The SLmailNT manual defines a smart host as a system that can send mail when SLmailNT can't figure out the proper route. I configured my ISP's mail server as my smart host.

You have to enter a serial number and registration key, or simply enter the word DEMO in both fields to begin a two-week trial evaluation. After you complete the registration information, SLmailNT installs a service to handle the SMTP link and configures a default root user. Needless to say, one user definition isn't going to do much for you in the long run. So your first formal interaction with SLmailNT is to configure user accounts for your real and imaginary (automated) users.

The SLmailNT configuration program handles every SLmailNT configuration option--from adding users to setting highly technical (e.g., esoteric) SMTP options. Each configuration option is available as a tabbed box. Screen 1 shows the system-level options, which include the IP information you entered during the installation process and additional system-level settings for directory and domain information. Although the configuration program has only one field for an incoming domain definition, you can configure SLmailNT to handle mail for multiple domains: You enter a list of domain names in this field.

SLmailNT supports five types of mail accounts so you can handle the needs of real users and set up automated mail systems. You can create user, alias, forward, auto-responder, and list accounts. As Screen 2 shows, each type has a different icon. The purpose of each account is as follows.

User accounts correspond to your real users. You access these accounts with POP3. You must have a user account for every user that sends or receives email. When you add a new user account, SLmailNT opens a dialog similar to the one in Screen 3 so you can properly define the information for the new user.

Alias accounts let you set up multiple names (aliases) for users. SLmailNT delivers mail received under an alias account to the corresponding user account. This feature is useful to implement different name variations (e.g., john, enck, jenck, enckj, etc.) for users, or to set up generic users such as support or sales and have those messages routed to a real user.

Forward accounts let you redirect mail to an account in a different domain. For example, with this feature, if you change companies, you can forward your email from your old company to your new company. A forward account is similar to an alias account. However, SLmailNT handles mail routed from an alias account, and another mail system handles mail routed from a forward account.

An auto-responder account automatically sends a return message to anyone who addresses mail to a particular email account. You can set up accounts such as info@company.com to automatically deliver information back to the sender on receipt. You can configure auto-responder accounts to operate in many ways: An auto-responder account can include the contents of a file as the text of the response, include the file as an attachment to the response, or send the information when it sees a send command in the text of the requesting message. You can log auto-responder activity to a file and forward (copy) received messages to a user account.

List accounts let you set up accounts for group or mass mailings. As in the case of auto-responder accounts, you can configure list accounts to operate in several ways. A controlled list lets you maintain the list's contents, or a list server lets people automatically subscribe and unsubscribe to a list via email. Lists can be open, which means anyone can mail to the list, or closed, meaning the list is available only to the list's members.

But Wait, There's More...
Users can access SLmailNT with any mail reader that supports POP3 or SMTP. The wide range of configuration options that SLmailNT provides is one of its most attractive features: SLmailNT can address both technical (e.g., SMTP protocol options) and operations requirements (e.g., not letting users change their password). Screen 4 shows a sampling of SLmailNT's advanced options. SLmailNT's impressive flexibility lets you use SLmailNT in a variety of environments, especially those that include other SMTP server implementations (e.g., UNIX, Macintosh, and Windows implementations). Considering the ever-changing landscape of the Internet, a versatile email package is a sound investment, especially when it comes with a low price tag, as SLmailNT does at $325.

SLmailNT
Seattle Lab * 206-402-6003
Fax: 206-828-9011
Email: sales@seattlelab.com
Web: www.seattlelab.com
Price: $325