I have a larger than typical LAN with multiple versions of Windows, Ubuntu, and multiple types of devices (PC's, tablets/phones, appliances, etc.). I want to create a centralized mail "repository" to allow users to house their email in an "Exchange-like" fasion. I want to be careful here to specify that I'm not looking for an Exchange alternative, per se. I don't require any particular feature set aside from being able to fill a "centrally managed mailbox" role. I want to be able to:

  • create mailbox accounts that, in some fashion, fetch messages from other accounts (ISP, gmail, etc.) to be housed in the mailbox
  • access this mailbox with any client (or as many as possible; "any" can be a steep order) and not have the account's emails become "fragmented". (eg. a message that was read on a client is then only accessible from that client)
  • sending email will be handled by ISP (they block port 25 on my connection) and is not a requirement

After some initial research, I think that perhaps an IMAP server might fit the bill (but I could be totally wrong about that). I understand that, after selecting a platform, there's a whole 'nother rabbit hole of learning to configure it, but this question is about the platform.

What are my platform options for creating such an email server?


IMAP is practically the only choice, yes. It keeps all message state on the server, allows organizing mail in folders, and practically all mail clients support it, often with real-time updates as well.

For devices that don't (e.g. if they only have a web browser), there also are a few webmail clients that use IMAP themselves, such as RoundCube, SquirrelMail, or Horde IMP.

I haven't tried many IMAP servers, but so far Dovecot has worked very well for me. IMAP servers usually cannot fetch mail from elsewhere, though; they expect it to be delivered by a MTA like Postfix or Exim or Sendmail (which receive mail by SMTP) or by programs like fetchmail or getmail (which download messages from another IMAP or POP3 server).

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