[unisog] OT - e-mail for students

Darden, Patrick S. darden at armc.org
Mon Sep 5 13:01:35 GMT 2005

My recommendation is Squirrelmail, a webmail package that has all the
features you could need, plus it is highly configurable.  It is PHP based,
and is very expandible.  We have used it for several years for our webmail


We use it like this:

=================---------head 1 running squirrelmail
| Imap Server   |---------head 2 running squirrelmail
| big fileserver|---------head 3 running squirrelmail  ===load balancer
| gig-e         |---------head 4 running squirrelmail  ===backup load
================|---------head 5 running squirrelmail

1.  we use inbound and outbound gateways that scan for virii.
2.  each squirrelmail head supports 1 simultaneous user per meg
    so 4GB gets you ~4000 simultaneous users.  YMMV.
3.  if you are using https you will likely be cpu-bound
    instead of memory bound.
4.  our load balancer is LVS and Heartbeat at
5.  we have quotas, and attachment size limitations;
    these have saved our bacon many times!  Large
    attachments can really quagmire your antivirus.
6.  your fileserver should be a monster, and you 
    might want a second duplicate one that mirrors
    the primary in case of failure.  (Snap NAS boxes
    with Enterprise Data Replication rock, as do 
    Network Appliance boxes).  We use a Snap 18000
    and some 14000s in several apps.
7.  IMAP eliminates file locking problems (e.g. nfs horrors).
8.  directory planning is a good idea.  e.g. parent 
    directories of a, b, c, d, e....  with subdirs
    of a, b, c, d, e....  That way you can move,
    prune, etc. more easily, plus you never have too
    long of a lookup (having too many items in a dir
    can really cause slowdowns).
9.  we use RH Linux for all of our servers.  We
    batten them down, and allow only ssh, http, 
    and outgoing imap/dns/smtp.

--Patrick Darden

-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Connelly [mailto:Ken.Connelly at uni.edu]
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2005 4:46 PM
To: unisog list
Subject: [unisog] OT - e-mail for students

Slightly off-topic, but please pass this on to a relevant mail admin if 
you think appropriate.

We're a mid-sized .edu (~13,000 students) and are looking for doing 
something with their e-mail to improve performance and appeal.  Students 
as a group seem to think a web-based client is the only way to deal with 
their e-mail.  I disagree, but that's why I'm asking...

I'm looking for experiences, good or bad, of admins who have done 
student e-mail on a unix platform with a web-based client as the primary 
(or even only) access to the mail.  We need reasonable performance and a 
somewhat featureful client (folders on server, easily distinguish 
seen/unseen messages, etc.)  If you can share what you've done in this 
vein that was successful, great.  Or if you can give pointers as to 
things to avoid, that would be appreciated as well.

Answer directly if you (and the list moderators?) prefer.  Thanks!

- Ken
Ken Connelly Systems and Operations Manager, ITS Network Services
University of Northern Iowa           Cedar Falls, IA  50614-0121
email: Ken.Connelly at uni.edu
phone: (319) 273-5850   fax: (319) 273-7373

It's much more important to know what you don't know than what you do know!

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