Integrating a third party SMTP anti-virus scanner with Mithi Connect Xf

Mithi Connect Xf can very comfortably work with a port level SMTP anti virus scanner configured on the same or another server. Fundamentally, the anti virus scanner software is configured to intercept incoming and outgoing messages, scan and clean these messages and route them to the Connect Server MTA. Please note that the mail filtering system described above will be a second level filter in this case (double check),which can be disabled if required. This document describes both the scenarios and also lists the popular anti-virus scanners.

A virus scanner on the same Linux server

nstall a Linux based SMTP anti virus scanner on the same server where Mithi Connect Xf is installed. Configure it on port 25 (SMTP) and let it relay the scanned and cleaned messages to another port say 1025. Configure the Connect Server SMTP service to operate on port 1025.

Virus Scanner on the same linux server

Virus Scanner on the same linux server

 

A virus scanner on another server in the network

This scenario is similar to the above. The server on which the anti virus software is installed, receives mail on port 25 and relays to Connect Server on another server on port 1025. Configure the Connect Server SMTP service to operate on port 1025. In this setup, the anti virus scanning software can be installed on any platform (Windows, Linux, Solaris)

virus_scanner_on_another_server

Virus scanner on another server

Compatibility: Popular Anti virus scanners,which can work with Connect Server

Mithi Connect Xf connects to an anti virus scanner over the standard SMTP protocol. Thus, any anti virus scanner, which operates on the SMTP port, and can relay messages to another SMTP port, will naturally work with Connect Server. Some of the popular choices are Trend Micro-Interscan,Symantec, open source anti virus scanners, CX Protect, etc.

Licensing

The open source components or third party components used in the solution are used as per their respective licensing policies. Some of these components are charged. The customer may have to bear this licensing cost depending on the choice of components.

Are you ready for a Disaster?

Situation

Enterprises often fail to adequately plan and provision for recovery from disasters resulting in large downtimes and related disruption to business. It’s important to understand that even servers under warranty can fail and data loss can occur (even if the vendor adheres to the response and resolution times committed to bring the server alive).

Practice Technique Description Time to restore services
Basic Availability Backups Ensure backups of all servers are taken to a separate PC/server in the network, onto a secondary device (tape, USB device) and a copy kept offsite with rotations done at regular intervals. The recovery procedure is to procure hardware, install the OS, install MCS and restore the backup. 8-10 hours
Basic Availability Standby server Maintain a hot standby server with OS and Mithi Connect Xf installed and ready to be deployed in case of a failure. This will have to be kept up to date with all upgrades, services packs and hot fixes as they are deployed on the Primary. Keeping this handy will save time while getting a secondary to replace a primary. It will require the data to be restored from the backups to take it live. 2-3 hours
Enhanced Availability Disaster recovery solution Deploy the Disaster recovery solution for Mithi Connect Xf. This keeps the secondary server up to date in real time and provides a simple switchover to the secondary in case of a failure on the primary. The secondary can also be kept at a remote location. 15 mins
High availability Load balanced setup Deploy the HA solution for Mithi Connect Xf. It comprises redundant compute only servers attached to a shared storage, accessed via a clustered set of load balancers. If a server is to fail or even get overloaded, the load balancer will take it off line and continue distributing the load to the remaining servers. Hands free instant

 

Enhanced availability using an Active-Passive setup

Disaster recovery using a hot standby server

Situation
An organization where mailing infrastructure is the key for business continuity and would like to achieve availability with minimal cost. One of the key concerns of IT Managers is to how to best quickly recover from a mail server failure.

Solution
Mithi Connect Xf can be setup as a disaster recovery or a hot standby server for a mail server hosted on Mithi Connect Xf.

The Email setup ensures that in case the primary mail server is not functional or not available due to a hardware or network failure, the secondary server takes over automatically.

The hot standby server will have the account data and the mail store from the primary mail server. When setup as a disaster recovery server to a mail server hosted on Mithi Connect Xf, the process of updating of the hot standby server is automatic.

Disaster Recovery using a hot standby server

Disaster Recovery using a hot standby server

Benefits

  • Real time synchronization of data keeping the hot standby server updated.
  • Minimal server downtime as users can be switched to the hot standby server in case of a primary server outage.
  • Immediate recovery from the failure as primary server can use configuration and mail data backup from the hot standby server for reverse synchronization.
  • Low cost as no high-end software or hardware other than Connect Xf Email Server is required

Limitations

As a hot standby server for Mithi Connect Xf
The solution uses a low level block synchronization technology (DRBD) which ensures on the fly replication of blocks. In case of an outage, it is possible that a few blocks may not have got properly synchronized leading to a localized data loss. The hot standby server capacity is not utilized during normal functioning since it is a passive entity.

High availability using an Active-Active setup

Load-balanced setup using a shared network storage with auto-fail over

Situation

An organization where the messaging infrastructure is the key for business continuation and would like to achieve near-zero downtime with auto fail-over in case of a server failure.

Solution

Mithi proposes deploying two or more MCS servers, which handle the SMTP, HTTP, POP, IMAP and LDAP traffic. These servers use a common NAS (network attached storage) for the mail store, such that they can simultaneously read or write from the mail store for any user.
Clustered load balancers will route all IP traffic from the clients to any of the servers that is available and responding well. The load balancers ensure that there is no downtime and the fail-over to available servers is automatic. To the end-user, all the MCS servers appear as one server.
The servers can be of different configurations, however Mithi advises that the servers be of identical configurations.

Load-balanced setup

Load-balanced setup

The load balancers take special care of:

Load balancers can be built on commodity hardware using open source components.

Benefits

Improved performance
Addition of servers will enhance the performance of the system as more processing power will be available. Separating the incoming and outgoing mail traffic will ensure faster delivery to and from the Internet.Scalable
The architecture proposes deploying a farm of servers connected to a load balancer and have the storage on a common storage device such as a NAS. This architecture ensures that on addition of users or an increase in the mail traffic can be handled by addition of mail servers to the farm.Highly available
The architecture ensures minimum downtime if any of the servers develops a problem, For example if one of the mail servers fail, then the others can assume the responsibility of handling the traffic, till such time as the other server is out of commission.Mail archiving
The new architecture can be configured to archive all traffic to SATA disks on the NAS.Optimal use of infrastructure
This architecture ensures that all the servers are used since they all are active. The NAS storage solution can be shared for other enterprise applications to help consolidate the storage requirements of an organization and also exploit the strong native features of a NAS for backup and data redundancy.

Resources :  Preventing a Disaster

Preventing a Disaster

A while ago, I wrote a note about disaster recovery i.e. how to quickly restore the services after a failure in the primary server. However, as the old adage goes Prevention is better than cure, here are some tips on how you can prevent system failures. This applies to all our customers including those who may have deployed an email disaster recovery system.

The two key characteristics of the email system that make it vulnerable to failure are:

We recommend the following to prevent failures at the different layers of the system.

Data Center

  • Install equipment in recommended temperature and dust control environments, with limited and authorized access for more reliability.
  • Ensure uninterrupted power supply of the required rating for the equipments.

Hardware System

Software System

Application Software Layer

Process Layer – Follow preventive maintenance procedures

Above all, have a bias towards Maintaining rather than Repairing.

When to use POP, IMAP or Web client

End users can access their mailboxes via web clients or desktop email clients such as Outlook / Outlook Express / Thunderbird etc. When configuring a desktop email client to check the incoming mail, the connection to the server can be an IMAP or a POP connection.

Organizations need to decide on a mail access policy depending on a number of factors such as the messaging server architecture, available bandwidth on the connections from the user’s desktop to the server, mail archiving policies, etc. The following paragraphs will help administrators decide on a suitable policy for individual users. System administrators can define a global policy or define different policies for individual users / groups of users.

POP access from a desktop email client

When to use POP access

Advantages

Limitations

IMAP access from a desktop email client

When to use IMAP access

Advantages

Limitations

Web mail access using a browser

When to use web mail access

Advantages

Limitations


Resources : Connect Xf with Access Devices

For SMEs Cloud Based Services is the default way forward

Cloud based services (CBS) have moved from the distant horizon and are looming in much closer today. Although the concept of cloud computing has been around since the 1960s, the shift towards large scale adoption of CBS has seen traction only after 2000. Put simply, CBS allows business functions to be performed, by accessing data, software or infrastructure over a ‘cloud’ (or the Internet) instead of an in-premise based infrastructure. Cloud based service providers usually charge on a pay-per-use or pay-as-you-go model.

Today, technology is a key enabler for success. Ideas, by themselves, cannot bear fruit if they aren’t successfully implemented; and an enterprise can quickly lose out on business, if it lags behind in managing its information systems. For an organization that needs information to be available 24×7, a CBS would be the ideal platform.

Related: 5 Unavoidable Reasons to Adopt Collaboration Services on the Cloud

With the ever-increasing number of devices like desktops, laptops, smart phones, tablets, etc. becoming the access points for information, what better way than to create a central point for change management across the entire IT and business ecosystem?

You don’t want to be left out!

According to Parallels® SMB (Small and Medium Businesses) Cloud Insights for Global Markets 2016™, the market for Cloud services is expected to grow to $125 billion by 2016, with 67% comprising of business applications and Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).

Adopting CBS seems to be the default way forward

The biggest impact by switching to CBS comes from the savings of upfront capital investments. CBS offers cost and efficiency benefits to businesses, both large and small. The initial concerns of security, privacy, performance and availability have now been assuaged. The key areas spanning any CBS include the end users, service providers and infrastructure providers. By moving to CBS, businesses are mitigating their risk associated with hardware obsolescence and environmental control hassles.

Related: 7 wants of an IT Manager of a Small to Medium Sized business

SMEs account for about 80% of a country’s economic activity. The economic downturn of the past decade created a tough climate for the SMEs. But, with their constant attempts to reinvent themselves and compete with the big bullies in the industry, they succeed in springing up with surprises every now and then. CBS can help them to focus on their core competencies rather than on mundane but still important business functions like accounting, office productivity tools, collaboration amongst their team, HRMS, Payroll, etc. They can streamline processes and globalize their reach at a much lower cost. CBS allows businesses allocate resources on a requirement basis (rather than a fixed sunken cost), as per the anticipate spikes and troughs.

Overcome traditional hurdles to deploy services and reach markets

Cloud based services help SMEs devote more manpower, time and money to run competitively against large enterprises, by diverting capital IT spending towards areas like marketing and innovation. They allow SMEs to achieve their goals on a much larger scale and at a much lower cost. Increasing brand awareness and market visibility, areas which were the playgrounds of big businesses (read: Fortune 2000), was one of the biggest hurdles for smaller companies. Now cloud computing has come as a great equalizer. The spread of social media in marketing and sales activity has been one of the greatest showcases for using CBS.

Take your Pick of Vendors; they are just a click away!

Today, the Cloud based services market is already a busy place with many sellers and a growing number of buyers. Giving SMEs the ability to pick and choose a provider based on their needs and budget. The key areas where smaller businesses can gain competitive advantage or even narrow the gap with large enterprises are Business Applications, Collaboration, Communications, Cloud Data Analytics, Social Media etc.

Related: Affordable Enterprise Class Real-time Collaboration Solution for Indian SMBs

Technology is no longer a differentiator

As we speak, technology is continuously changing; mostly for the better. Technology is no longer a differentiator between the have and the have-nots. Rather, it has become a great leveler, giving SMEs the ability to thrive; to challenge; to be among the best.