Scalix: Linux Administrator`s Guide

Installing, configuring, and administering an e-mail and groupware server can be quite a tough job. Scalix is a remarkable open source server of this kind; it is based on HP OpenMail. Scalix can be used by beginners, but in terms of administration, it requires solid know-how. This book targets Linux administrators that intend to work with Scalix e-mail servers.

Markus Feilner, the author of the book, is a Linux author, IT journalist, trainer, and consultant from Regensburg, Germany. He is currently employed as an editor for German Linux Magazine, where he is writing the Linux Technical Review column, as well as other articles on various topics, such as groupware, virtualization, etc. His first book is called OpenVPN: Building and Integrating Virtual Private Networks. He has extensive Linux knowledge and regularly gives speeches and lectures at conferences.

Scalix comes in different editions: Enterprise, Small Business, Appliance, Xandros, Community, and Raw. Community and Raw Editions are freeware, and Raw is also open source. Their products are built on the outstanding success of OpenMail, which was developed by Hewlett-Packard and is still one of the most powerful solutions.

This is a technical book published by PacktPub. Their orange and black style is unique in the market. By skimming through the book you can see that this is a serious and robust technical manual. It is literally jam-packed with knowledge heavily focused on Scalix and Linux. No one should expect to read this book once and be done with it.

The listed cover price of the book is US$39.99, UK£24.99, and EU€30.99. However, do yourself a favor and try to look for certain discounts that are available from specific bookstores. For example, at the time of writing this review, there’s a 10% discount if you order a copy right from PACKT Publishing. This means you can get it at £22.49, $35.99, and €27.89. Amazon also offers this ten percent discount.

The purpose of this review is to present the main qualities of the book. The content of each chapter is summed up as briefly as possible. After these distillations, we will conclude with a few key points regarding the book. In the end, you can expect to read my subjective opinion and whether I’d recommend this book or not.

{mospagebreak title=General Overview}

The book is exactly 276 pages long and is divided into 13 chapters. First off, it explains how and why e-mail has become the communication standard. This first chapter is important because most of the notions and concepts are defined here. You will also read how email works, learn about its protocols, etc.

The second chapter continues with a concise history of Scalix groupware. You will get to know the email server terminology (such as daemon, mail node, indexing, protocols, etc.). The author also presents the necessary licensing, as well as the possible package editions and their differences.

The real action begins in the third chapter—installation. This is continued in the fourth chapter where advanced installation techniques are covered: text-based, graphical, and even how to approach a scenario where uninstalling is required. Chapter five takes you on a simple, yet necessary tour through the SAC (Scalix Admin Console). The routine tasks are presented, such as adding users, applying filters, searching, passwords, etc.

Scalix is not only compatible with various third party e-mail clients, but also with Microsoft’s proprietary Outlook client. The sixth chapter explains the deployment of Scalix Connect, which involves adding full Outlook support for users. This is quite critical because let’s face it, users tend to prefer (and are used to) working with Outlook Express.

Aside from the Scalix Admin Console (SAC), there’s a lot to do with the help of commands and configuration files. Also, there are additional programs and tools that aid the system administrator in the maintenance and configuration of Scalix. The author gives a brief explanation of their usage in the seventh chapter.

Chapter eight is jam-packed with useful tools, commands, and tips to help monitor your Scalix services. It is important to know their state, as well as your Outlook client’s. At the end of this chapter, Markus Feilner explains how the Nagios plug-in can be set up to have full integration and alarming capabilities. The task is described in a three-step process and the author shows us ready-to-run Nagios scripts too.

Security should never be neglected since it is always critical. Chapter nine covers most of the guidelines that a system administrator should follow in order to enhance the security of the Scalix server. This is a must-read because really useful quirks are presented. Moving on, the tenth chapter is about backing up and restoring the Scalix mail server. You can do full backups, incremental backups, and even simple backups of certain mailboxes.

The eleventh chapter starts out with a brief explanation of Scalix’s LDAP server, explains how to configure it, and continues presenting how to integrate the Scalix Administration tools for Active Directory and how to sync with remote directories. Chapter twelve is one of the shortest chapters, but you can learn about mail routing, troubleshooting directory synchronization issues, and Active/Passive clusters.

In this age, anti-spam and anti-virus measures must always be taken. In the final chapter, the author shows us how to incorporate ClamAV and SpamAssassin into your Scalix server. The necessary configurations are thoroughly explained. The reader can also apply their knowledge of third party applications. At the end, you are going to read about other ways to prevent spam, such as relay control.

Please check out the table of contents for the book below. As you can see, the title of each chapter is followed by a couple of words that explain the “main theme” of that particular chapter. This, along with the index at the end of the book, is very useful because this manual can be used as a reference and you may just want to search for a particular issue. Finding that as soon as possible is critical.

Table of Contents:

Preface

Chapter 1: Email and Groupware: History and Basics

Chapter 2: Scalix Groupware

Chapter 3: Installing Scalix

Chapter 4: Advanced Installations

Chapter 5: First Steps with Scalix Admin Console and Scalix Web Access

Chapter 6: Administration and Configuration

Chapter 7: Common Options and Documentation

Chapter 8: Monitoring Scalix

Chapter 9: Scalix and Security

Chapter 10: Backup and Restore

Chapter 11: Scalix Directory Integration

Chapter 12: HA and Multi-Server Setups

Chapter 13: Defeating Spam and Viruses

Bibliography

Index

In the next section, we will continue our review by analyzing the content of the book, the style of the author, and the way the information is delivered. Click on the link below.

{mospagebreak title=Continued Analysis}

If you are already familiar with the books published by PacktPub, then you know they have unique fonts, styles, and aesthetics. The book always starts by presenting particular scenarios. You can see how a block of code looks as well as the “important notes” and “tips and tricks” segments.

As always, I pay attention to the subtitle of the book. It is quite important to check whether the book does really deliver what it promises. In this case, the book has the following subtitle: Install, configure, and administer your Scalix Collaboration Platform email and groupware server.” Thankfully, the book delivers exactly that. As a matter of fact, the entire book is only about those three topics.

Thanks to the appropriate line spacing and Garamond look-alike font, the book won’t strain your eyes. The contrast of the black text color on the white paper is very nice. Additionally, this book has almost one hundred visual aids—screen shots, diagrams, and sketches. Activities are accompanied by diagrams and entire processes come with screen shots.

The author’s style is very coherent. As I already mentioned, this book is a sort of centralized how-to. Yeah, I made up that term, but that’s because the author explains how to work with Scalix starting from an early stage—basics—and then gradually progressing toward a really advanced stage, where lots of “tough” tasks are presented.

It is important to point out that the book’s content was reviewed by two professional experts in their field: Braam van Heerden and Kevin Anderson. I have also done my best to test and verify most of what’s written in the book and I couldn’t find a flaw. I do not consider myself an expert in Scalix, but I have seen that what’s in the book is accurate.

(Back cover of the book)

In short, let’s sum up what you can learn from this book:

Ø        Dissecting an email message and understanding how email and groupware servers work;

Ø        Installing Scalix on OpenSuSE 10.2, Fedora Core 5, and Windows;

Ø        Setting up Scalix in a multiserver environment with clustering and replication;

Ø        Troubleshooting and hardening your Scalix environment;

Ø        Working with the Scalix Administration Console (SAC);

Ø        Managing users and handling common tasks;

Ø        Deploying the Scalix connector for Outlook and integrating with IMAP mail clients;

Ø        Understanding Scalix configuration files and administrative commands;

Ø        Standard Scalix monitoring tools and status reports;

Ø        Integrating Scalix in your centralized Nagios monitoring system;

Ø        Securing your server using firewalls, Stunnel, and OpenVPN;

Ø        Performing full, incremental, and single-mailbox backups and restores;

Ø        Integrating an external LDAP directory with Scalix and configuring the Scalix LDAP server;

Ø        Integrating Scalix Administration tools for Active Directory;

Ø        HA (high availability) and multi-server setups;

Ø        Setting up an active/passive cluster with backup functions;

Ø        Preparing Scalix for spam and virus filtering using smtpd.cfg, ClamAV, SpamAssasin, and much, much more.

{mospagebreak title=Conclusion}

You have come to the end of this book review. The time has come for us to draw some conclusions and eventually rate this book. But I truly think that my final thoughts shouldn’t surprise anyone considering what you’ve read about the book until now.

Despite the fact that the book’s language and style isn’t all that complex, we shouldn’t underestimate the niche that this book targets. This book is a highly technical manual—a strong and real reference manual. It deals with the “inner workings” of an email server, so you cannot expect it to be simple and easy.

From the user’s perspective, working with Scalix is very easy and, thus, preferred by beginners. However, system administrators need to have a certain amount of “know-how” in order to fully master Scalix.

Even the author points out that the book is written for Linux Administrators who wish to set up an email server for businesses or those who wish to switch to Scalix from another email server. Therefore, the target audience is Linux system administrators. Nobody should misunderstand this because it’s important.

Summing up, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book for those people that fit into the targeted audience. All in all, I am rating this book a 5/5. The book delivers what it promises in a comprehensive and straightforward manner, and the content is valid. The author has done his best to guide you through the most difficult administration tasks.

Before we finish, please bear with me as I’d like to thank everyone over at PACKT Publishing for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I’ve had the good fortune to be in touch with Duane Moraes from their team and he has shown a great deal of professionalism and business expertise.

Moreover, I would also like to congratulate the author, Markus Feilner, on finishing and publishing his second book. I am positive that a lot of system administrators will flip through this book. It is a necessary reference manual because fighting with Scalix’s documentation is pretty hard.

We all know that lots of official docs are outdated and that crucial content is spread around forums. Because it brings together material that might take days to find online by wandering through various forums, this book is a real timesaver. It is a concise and easy-to-use how-to covering the administration strategies of Scalix Community Edition.

You might also want to check out the book author’s Linux consulting and training company at http://www.feilner-it.net/  —Feilner IT.

Furthermore, please don’t miss the sample article that is an excerpt from the book: First Steps with Scalix Admin Console and Scalix Web Access. And if you feel like being part of the right audience, then don’t hesitate to grab a copy of this book (PACKT, Amazon, B&N). I’ve attached additional information about the book below:

ISBN-10: 1847192769

ISBN-13: 978-1847192769

Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.3 x 0.8 inches

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