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  1. #1
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    Setting up a centralized Outlook server for home

    I have looked through the threads and see similar questions, but not exactly the same as what I am seeking to do, so here goes.

    I want to set up a centralized email "server" to manage my family's email. We each have laptops, a shared family desktop which will eventually be scrapped, and cell phones that can all send/receive email. Our personal email is hosted by our cable company, and I do not want to leave emails permanently on their server. Ideally, emails would be forwarded automatically to my new central server and we would connect our various devices to it to retrieve our emails. Once downloaded to our server the email would be automatically removed from the cable company's server.

    I am a technical guy, but not very knowledgeable about email servers and unsure what the best way to go would be. I would love something simple and fairly low-maintenance, but will do what is reasonable for a secure, usable system.

    It's amazing to me that in this day and age with all of the devices and email options that there isn't a straight-forward way to do this!

    Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
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    Just to make it clear, you are asking two things:

    1. How to setup an email server.
    2. How to redirect your email from the ISP to your server.

    Am I correct?

  3. #3
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    that may be the ultimate solution, but I was just trying to explain the goal and then get opinions as to how to best implement it. So, to re-state it, the goal is to have a straight-forward, low-maintenance (as reasonably possible) solution for managing my family's email using a centralized system, with the email residing in our walls rather than our ISP's.

    I hope that is clearer, but if not please feel free to ask questions.

    Thanks for your help!

  4. #4
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    Well you can always get some email server software and install it locally and then get a domain and host it in your own server. Besides having access to email server software (some can be obtained for free even if not always full featured), you'd need a fixed IP or use free dynamic dns provider. I have a friend that does just that, but he had access to a cost free Microsoft Exchange license. As I said, there are other email server software packages you could use, but it still is something that will require some effort.

    Another way would be to get a hosted email solution. Google Apps (5$/month/user) or Office 365 ($4/month/user) would be some of the options.

    Depending on the number of accounts you need, an hosted solution could be a good one, relieving you from the effort to acquire, maintain and upgrade software, as well as ensuring continued availability, for a small cost. I maintain my email for my domain, using an hosted solution. It's not exchange based, but I don't really need anything other than SMTP /POP / IMAP. Such a solution can be cheaper.

  5. #5
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    Are you sure you want to run a local email server? Most people don't want to tackle running a server themselves.

    Do you have a budget for hardware and software?

    Joe

  6. #6
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    Quite sure. It was simple when it was just me and my wife downloading emails to a single desktop and automatically removing them from the ISP's server. It got more complicated when we started using laptops (sometimes more than one each), and further complicated when our kids started using email.

    As I said, I don't want to leave email on the ISP's server, which also means I don't want cloud-based solutions, such as Google, Outlook.com, etc.

    I can't come up with a budget until I understand what the components are. I don't think I need a fancy server, just a reliable desktop to serve as the email gateway and storage medium. The tricky part for me is how to set up each family member so that each account downloads to this "home server", removes the email from the ISP's server (I assume it is the same account setting in Outlook that performs this function), and maintains separate accounts on our home server. If there are simpler home-based solutions I am all for that. If not, I just need to know how to set up the above as simply as possible. I had thought about setting up an Exchange server but have read where this is overkill and can be a maintenance nightmare, although there weren't solutions provided similar to what I am trying to do.

  7. #7
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    You can search online for email server software. There will be free options, but those that provide features you are used to will probably be expensive. My provider uses MailEnable, which has a free version. Feature wise, things get interesting only with the Pro version, that costs $350.

    I understand you want to run your own email server, but a cloud based solution will provide automatic backup, security, availability and no setup fuss and associated hardware and software costs. You better be ready to spend time backing up, patching up, and maintaining the email server to allow it to run 24/7 and to enable you to recover from any issues (hardware, or software).

  8. #8
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    Thanks ruirib. I definitely do not want a cloud solution.

    I may be able to install Exchange if that is the way to go, but as I said, other posters had said it was overkill. I think there were solutions based on MAPI and IMAP, but I don't know the details of how and why to use either.

  9. #9
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    A comparison between IMAP, POP and MAPI: http://it.med.miami.edu/x1111.xml

  10. #10
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    So if I go with an Exchange-based solution it seems I want MAPI; for other solutions I would use IMAP. Now the only trick is setting it up! This leads me back to the original question of "how" to do this -- what software I need, best practices for setup and maintenance, what headaches I can expect, etc.

  11. #11
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    Exchange can be relatively simple to install and maintain or it can be very complex. For your requirements you can keep it relatively simple. You should start at the Exchange server 2013 TechNet library. There is a tremendous amount of information there. A good third party source is Exchange Server 2010, 2007, 2003, 2000 Articles & Tutorials.

    Joe

  12. #12
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    Thanks, Joe.

    Again, I am amazed that there isn't a "simple" solution for people like me who want to host their own emails and do not want a cloud-based solution.

  13. #13
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    There are other email servers available some free, some not free. I'm sure there is a wide variety of features, functions, and price ranges. I'm really not familiar with them so I can't make a recommendation. In general I'd say that running a secure, safe, well oiled server is seldom a simple solution.

    Joe

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    Spit, twist-ties, and scotch tape

    I use multiple .pst files on a network drive and open them with outlook sessions from any computer on my home network.

    Works fine as long as I don't forget to close outlook completely before trying to open a session on another computer.
    --
    CAJ

  15. #15
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    Thanks, CAJ. I have experimented with multiple pst files before and it does work, although a bit of a pain logging in and out of sessions. Would be great to have a simple dashboard for all accounts, select a particular account to see/manage emails.

    I will dig into this and explore the IMAP solution, falling back to the pst solution if it becomes too complex/expensive.

    Thanks all for your input!

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