Virtual Solutions to Shared Network Resources and Email Solutions

I’ve been looking into a number of different resources for b5media. Namely, I’m looking for a better email solution for mail serving as well as an offsite backup and shared resources solution. As we’re a fairly large infrastructure spread globally, we have requirements as well.

Email Solution

Currently, we run all our mail locally through sendmail/dovecot and while this is a workable solution, it’s time consuming to have to go in and edit

1
/etc/mail/virtusertable

and

1
/etc/aliases

all the time. Not to mention trying to get spamassassin to actually deal with spam appropriately. On the surface, I’m a fan of Google Apps for Domains. It allows a nice interface for adding email accounts. Forwarders is a short step from there. And of course, Gmail’s spam filtering is next to none. Add to that the ability to have POP/IMAP/SMTP access via Gmail and it becomes the workaround solution for most of our users.

Then of course, we use Googlegroups for mailing lists.

But GAYD has reliability issues and there’s no guarantee that it won’t go away tomorrow.

We could of course get a dedicated mail server. In a Windows LAN/WAN/VPN environment, a dedicated Exchange server would be apropos – but that goes against a number of philisophical principles at b5media. One, we don’t run on Windows. Nothing runs on Windows, save Jeremy’s laptop. Oh and Christina uses Windows too. But that’s all client bits. For servers, we don’t use Windows and though it’s possible to make OSes work seamlessly, it’s not something we want to pursue. Secondly, it’s just too big of a solution for b5media. I come from the big old world of government contracting where there were 250+ users at a site. Using Exchange in that situation, in a homogenous Windows environment, makes sense. Using it in a virtual web-world does not.

Network Backup/Storage

A challenge we face as a virtual company where most everyone works from home, on laptops, is that all our data is subject to those dangers. Last week, a sprinkler system went off in a vacant apartment in our building sending the fire alarm off. I grabbed my laptop and went outside, knowing that if there truly were a fire, I had to have my laptop to make money for my family. Worse yet, what if the sprinkler had gone off in MY apartment and destroyed the computer? I backup my data to an external drive, but what if a fire, or a thief that had broken into my apartment, had taken it. Where would I be?

So we need an remote-storage/backup solution for our client machines. Some are Windows, some are Macs (actually, most are Macs). This should be a small client that simply runs a backup job via cron/Scheduled Tasks. Ideally, this service could double as a virtual shared drive accessible by all of our folks.

Finally…

We are not opposed to self-hosted or remote-hosted solutions, though remote-hosted would take some of the support burden off myself. These things need to be EASY. Not that we can’t do hard, but why should we? Plus, there’s too much else that I need to worry about than having to deal with learning how to deploy/maintain a solution on our servers. Everything should be accessible via a web interface as well. Add an email, click. Add a forwarder, click. Add user A to this mailing list and give him Admin rights, click.

So, does anyone have any recommendations. Better yet, can anyone give me a demo of your product?

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

2 thoughts on “Virtual Solutions to Shared Network Resources and Email Solutions”

  1. Depending on how enterprising you want to get, there are some open-source options to your Exchange conundrum. openGroupware.org is an option. In any event, you could use probably any client to connect to it. From what you describe, though, it’s not a groupware solution you need but a robust email solution.

    As for backups, the problem you will have with remote backups tends to be the slow upload speeds most users have with their home ISPs. I can download at 8Mbps, but I can only upload at 400Kbps at the most if I am lucky. I think any solution based on Rsync would be best, given that you have different clients. Also, Rsync would work great given these upload limitations. That first backup, though, is going to take a while, given those upload speeds. I was looking at something online about this, but I cannot remember what it was called.

    At the end of the day, there may be heavy lifting involved to get to the ease of use and administration that you want. It’s possible, but it is going to take some effort to get there.

    Just my 5 cents… ;-)

  2. We’ve got a great cross platform fire -n- forget off-site backup solution. Worth looking into.

    It’s not free, but addresses several issues you can’t do with existing tools today.

    ~Matthew

Comments are closed.