Computing > Security

The case for self hosting a email server. Is there one?

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brucehoult:

--- Quote from: JustMeHere on May 09, 2021, 01:48:35 pm ---I do it because I got tired of my email changing every time I move or the ISP changes hands.

It's also good experience incase you need to be a server admin.

--- End quote ---

Running your own email server is completely unnecessary for that. All you need is to have your own domain name.

I've had my own domain for  ... checks ...

Domain Name: HOULT.ORG
Creation Date: 2000-05-10T10:11:35Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2029-05-10T10:11:35Z

So actually that's 21 years ago *today*. And I keep ahead on the expiry date -- I prepaid it up to 10 years a year ago.

Over the years that's been hosted in a number of places.

- I've had my own Linux mail server at home

- a friend in the USA with a hosted box at rackspace.com offered me free hosting in exchange for some light admin duties and "his paying customers not noticing whatever I did on the box".

- once gmail started and was clearly the best webmail app I used a .forward from the rackspace machine. That only strengthened once they got a great iOS native app.

- sadly my friend died a few years ago. I'm now using a commercial hosting service, but just having them forward everything to gmail. Some of my other family members are using webmail and pop/imap directly on the current commercial provider.

- I regularly download and archive everything from gmail


For the moment, and for quite a few years now, I'm happy with physically reading and sending my mail via gmail. But I don't depend on them in any way. Physically, all my mail goes first to a server that I have at least some management control over before being forwarded to gmail.

If either google or the web hosting company disappear or change their T&Cs in an annoying way I can pack up and go elsewhere with a few minutes of work. No one who sends me email will notice a thing.

JustMeHere:

--- Quote from: madires on January 14, 2021, 03:13:45 pm ---I wouldn't recommend to run a mail server at home if your internet access has dynamic IP addresses. Most mail servers verify the reverse mapping and many also block prefixes used for dynamic address pools, because they are the common source of bot generated SPAM. In that case your mail server could only receive email from the internet and needs a smarthost or mail relay for sending. Another solution would be a tunnel to a server with a fixed IP address.

--- End quote ---

Yes.  It's a good idea (actually you pretty much must) proxy your email through a service like dynu.com.   This gives you the ability to go offline.  It also gives you a reputable outbound path.  You want a Store And Forward (SAF) and a Outbound Mail Relay (OMR) service.   You will also need to make sure to set up your SPF, DMARC, and DKIM. 

emece67:

--- Quote from: JustMeHere on May 10, 2021, 02:58:58 am ---Yes.  It's a good idea (actually you pretty much must) proxy your email through a service like dynu.com.   This gives you the ability to go offline.  It also gives you a reputable outbound path.  You want a Store And Forward (SAF) and a Outbound Mail Relay (OMR) service.   You will also need to make sure to set up your SPF, DMARC, and DKIM.

--- End quote ---

I'm a true newbie here so I need some advice. Owing a Synology NAS I'm trying to move my personal email accounts to it (from google and other "free" email providers). I've reached the point where my dynamic IP seems to block all my attempts to send email (I do have a registered domain —in the .xyz 1.111B class—, dDNS provider —Dynu—, SSL certificate —from Let's Encrypt—, MX, SPF, DKIM and DMARC records —that seem to work, as I receive the XML DMARC reports from google—), so I'm now looking into OMR (in fact looking at Dynu). But, knowing that now I'm receiving email, do I need such Store and Forward service?

Thanks & regards.

MIS42N:
I've owned my own domain since 1999 and run a mail server at home (dovecot/postfix on Linux) since I think 2009. I don't really know what I'm doing (just follow the set up instructions) but haven't had too many problems. I have a fixed IPv4 address (and a block of IPv6 addresses but not implemented for mail yet). The domain registrar provides the DNS and tools to maintain my own DNS records. The MX records are set so mail preferentially goes to my server, but if not there's a catchall set up in the domain registrar's own mail system, and it forwards all mail to my ISP's mail server (the ISP allows a user to set up several email addresses hosted on their mail server). I use Thunderbird as a mail client and the connection is via IMAP. If the mail server goes down for any reason, mail appears in the ISP account and I just drag and drop it from one account to the other when the server is back up. This moves it from server to server so it is as if the 'real' server was up all the time.

The question was about the case for self hosting. I don't know if there is a good one. I have many thousands of mail messages some dating back to 1999 and running to many gigabyte. I have this stored in quite a complex hierarchy. It is useful on occasions to search old messages.  I also issue different people different email addresses. For example paypal knows me as paypal@domain so if I receive something purportedly from paypal but not using the correct address I know it's spam without looking at it. Also if a particular email is spammed it is easy to delete that account, inform the rightful sender of a change of email address.

The email is 'backed up' using IMAP on a laptop. The desktop has a full copy, the laptop kept elsewhere has a full copy, the server has a full copy. The server has mirrored (RAID1?) disks so can recover from a single disk failure.

It works for me. But I can't say it makes a case for others to follow.

BradC:

--- Quote from: JustMeHere on May 10, 2021, 02:58:58 am ---Yes.  It's a good idea (actually you pretty much must) proxy your email through a service like dynu.com.   This gives you the ability to go offline.  It also gives you a reputable outbound path.  You want a Store And Forward (SAF) and a Outbound Mail Relay (OMR) service.   You will also need to make sure to set up your SPF, DMARC, and DKIM.
--- End quote ---

I use a $100/yr OpenVZ partition to run an outbound relay. Our prime inbound MX is my home connection but I do have the OpenVZ set up as a store and forward secondary. Been running it this way since 2006.

Provided you get the DNS set up right with spf/dmarc it's not difficult. I've had two delivery issues in ~15 years and both of those were Microsoft and "reputation" based. Didn't take long to sort out.

People make out running an E-mail server is difficult, but provided you can get an outbound address where the DNS forward matches the reverse it's really not difficult.

For most people there's probably not a "case" as such. We just wanted to stay away from third party providers and what we do works for us. We do run our own DNS servers also, so it's maybe a bit of "control-freakism" also.

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