Integrate your existing email software with the Internet to extend the reach of your email to the rest of the world
Understanding the basic electronic messaging architecture is the first step toward choosing the right email solution. An email architecture covers four levels, the client, the server, the backbone and the interenterprise.
the clientThe messaging client remains the most visible component of an email system because it enables end users to compose, read, forward, reply to, file and otherwise manipulate email.
With plug-and-play components becoming the norm, a client buying decision can be made independently from the server. In selecting a messaging client, you should first determine if it's based on a shared-file or a true client/server architecture. Clients that fall into the client/server camp typically use a vendor proprietary protocol or a more open one, such as the Internet POP 3 or IMAP. In this environment, servers notify clients of mail waiting or even pass messages directly to receiving clients when the client logs on to the server. Examples of a client/server architecture is CE Sofware's QuickMail and Microsoft's Exchange Server. Examples of an open architecture is DEC's AltaVista Mail and Software.com's Post.Office.
While standards-based client/server protocol support is desirable, most client/server LAN email systems still use a proprietary protocol. In this era of mail-enabled applications, don't forget to verify that clients support binary attachments, electronic forms, compound document assembly/disassembly, native support for the Simple Mail Transport Protocol's (SMTP) Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) format, and drag-and-drop features.
Compound document support involves the ability to easily create and subsequently read a document that may have multiple attachments. MIME allows binary file attachments to be sent across SMTP-based backbones.
With many users receiving 50 to 100 or more messages per day, buyers should investigate the filters and rules capabilities built into clients. Those clients that support rules can easily handle common situations such as filing incoming messages in particular folders or automatically replying to certain messages. Filtering is increasingly becoming just as important as users base more day-to-day business correspondence on email. Making sure that a note from your boss doesn't get lost in the sea of messages you get each day will quickly justify the selection of a product with intelligent filtering capabilities that can locate the boss's mail and put it at the top of your in-box.
Remote client support is also becoming an important selection criterion. Users on the road want to be able to tap into their email from pagers, laptops and personal digital assistants, so vendors are increasingly giving them that capability.
the serverWhile more functionality is finding its way to clients, messaging servers are still responsible for critical message store, directory services and MTA operations. The first step in picking out a server is to evaluate its overall modularity. Client/server access should ideally be supported to the message store component or the directory. The message store must also be able to act as a client to the MTA. This component approach provides you with mix and match client and message store products using standard protocols such as POP 3, IMAP or X.400 P7. You can mix and match directory products using Directory Access Protocol (DAP) or Lightweight DAP.
Other critical features at the server level include MTA interconnection methods and network protocols. The use of open access protocols is becoming very common in the Net environment, where multiple Internet mail servers will support connections with clients running the Post Office Protocol (POP) 3 or Interactive Mail Access Protocol (IMAP). Clients in this environment only need one driver package to be able to access any server that supports the same protocol.
the backbone and interenterpriseWhile low-end LAN email systems may be suitable for a limited environment of a few hundred or even a few thousand users, many enterprises have hit a wall of severe scalability and manageability limitations when they attempt to deploy low-end systems to thousands of users and hundreds of post offices. A few high-end scalable servers with more robust management capabilities and a backbone that reaches other enterprise mail systems may fit the bill much better.
Enterprise directory support will enable corporate users to reduce the costs of maintaining a myriad of directories for email systems, gateways, voice mail systems, telephone lists, NOSes, electronic data interchange systems and network management systems.
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