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Axigen Messaging 7.6.1 review

Can Axigen’s cross-platform messaging application match the might of Microsoft’s popular Exchange suite? Gareth Halfacree puts it to the test to find out...

This article originally appeared in issue 99 of Linux User & Developer magazine.

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At a glance:
Pros: A relatively pain-free install process, excellent features and a good web-based configuration interface make Axigen a joy to use
Cons: Some of the more advanced features aren’t explained well in the UI, and many require additional licensing fees

Convincing your average company to move to Linux is always a challenge, and one of the biggest ticks in the ‘con’ column is the lack of a supported, commercial equivalent to Microsoft’s popular Exchange messaging platform. While there are packages around that take certain functionality from it, it’s hard to find something that can offer enough functionality to quell the dissenters. Enter Axigen.

Axigen is the brand name of Gecad Software, the company best known for developing the RAV AntiVirus suite that was acquired by Microsoft back in June 2003. Axigen’s email platform for Linux was launched officially back in September 2005 at the Linux World Expo – but it’s undergone some major changes since then.

While originally developed as a closed-source, commercially supported alternative to popular open source email packages, Axigen Messaging now offers groupware and collaboration functionality, calendaring tools and even push support for BlackBerry handsets – but does it really do what it promises?

The sheer volume of settings could trouble some webmail users

Installation on our testbed Ubuntu Linux system went without a hitch, with the executable installation script presenting a text-only multiple-choice menu – ideal if you’re working on on a headless server. One word of warning, however: Axigen has thus far only released a 32‑bit binary for Ubuntu, but other 64-bit Linux distros are catered for.

Sadly, starting the configuration wizard didn’t go so smoothly. A bug with newer Linux installations necessitated a quick search through Axigen’s forums to get the terminal type set up properly, but a solution was quickly found and the text-based configuration wizard was straightforward to use. Axigen has even included a Sendmail wrapper, allowing command-line scripts and packages to send email through the Axigen Messaging service with no additional configuration required.
The bulk of the management is carried out via a web-based interface, which runs by default on port 9000. The interface is clean and fresh, and contains a helpful quick-start guide on each screen that explains what each option does.

The configuration wizard walks you through the basic setup

This, however, doesn’t always help. To say that Axigen Messaging is powerful is an understatement: with multiple anti-virus and anti-spam engines to choose from (the majority of which require shelling out an additional licence fee), the sheer volume of options can be overwhelming. The defaults don’t help particularly, with anti-virus and anti-spam functionality turned off by default – not something most administrators will be happy with leaving as-is.

Account configuration is pretty straightforward and Axigen supports almost every connection type you could hope for – including webmail via an AJAX-powered interface that does a good job of pretending to be a desktop application. As with the administration interface, though, users have access to an impressive array of options – which could leave the less technically minded feeling a little overwhelmed. The recent addition of an instant messaging client to the webmail interface could, however, make remote support significantly easier.

Axigen supports an impressive array of anti-virus packages

There’s no denying that Axigen Messaging is a powerful platform, and ticks many of the boxes that an administrator looking for a route away from Windows and Exchange needs ticking – but its commercial aspect is perhaps a little too familiar for Microsoft escapees. While the software itself is relatively cheap, many features – including Kaspersky anti-virus and support for push notifications to mobile devices, such as RIM’s BlackBerry handsets – require an additional licence fee to be paid.

During our tests, Axigen performed well – even when doing our best to load the server, the system handled our connections fine and didn’t falter. Impressive logging features that can graph almost any numerical value in the system, from incoming connections to mailbox sizes, are also welcome – but, again, aren’t very user friendly.

Automatic migration makes moving from an old server a breeze

Verdict: 4/5
While the price of Axigen’s business offering may put off users on a budget, it offers an impressive array of groupware features not previously seen in a Linux product. With Outlook-compatible calendars, IMAP, POP3 and webmail clients, and even optional push support for BlackBerry devices, it may well offer administrators a way to switch away from Microsoft’s ubiquitous Exchange platform in the enterprise. Watch out for the cost of the extras, though.

Since this article was written Axigen has released Axigen Messaging 8. Click here to find out more…

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