Feature Article
ASA Email Services

POPS, IMAPS, SMTPS & Webmail Features
Wide Range of User & Group Administration Options

Contents

ASA Email Services

Email Services

Basic Email Services: POPS, IMAPS, & Address Book

Advanced Email Services: POP-Before-SMTP & External Address Book

Webmail Services

Basic Webmail Services

Advanced Webmail Services

Administration

User Administration

Basic User Administration

Advanced User Administration

Group Administration

Basic Group Administration

Advanced Group Administration


ASA Email Services

Email Services

ASA offers several different email services based on customer needs:

  1. Entry Level Plan
  2. Mid-range Level Plan
  3. Custom Level Plan
  4. Email Backup/Recovery Services

The Entry Level Plan provides basic email services on a shared server which services multiple clients. Each client can have up to a maximum of 100 users and 500MB of disk usage. The server provides email services, such as POPS, IMAPS, SMTPS, webmail, web-based address books, and web-based user administration to each client on a shared basis. This plan also includes configuration and setup of email accounts, basic maintenance on a leased server, and 24 hours, 7 days a week technical support.

The AID1 hard disk setups (mirrored for backup), Pentium 4 processors with hyperthreading (essentially 2 processors), and 1GB DDR2 RAM. The server provides email services such as POPS, IMAPS, SMTPS, webmail, web-based address books, and web-based user administration to each client on a dedicated basis. Some of the advanced services available are FTP, mailing lists, externally available address books, and user account access to the server. This plan also includes configuration and setup of email accounts, basic maintenance on a leased server, and 24 hours, 7 days a week technical support.

The Custom Level Plan includes all the available services of the Mid-Range Plan with extra options available regarding hardware and software configurations. Clients that require a lot of disk space, clients that have more than 1000 users, or clients that want to run critical applications from the email server should consider this plan.

ASA also offers a separate service that provides Email Backup and Recovery Services. This service consists of bimonthly complete backups, as well as daily incremental backups. These are rotated monthly and are stored at two separate locations, one on-site at GCWSC (George C. Wallace Supercomputer Center) in Huntsville and one at an off-site facility.

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Basic Email Services: POPS, IMAPS, & Address Book
  • POP and POPS
  • IMAP and IMAPS
  • SMTP and SMTPS
  • Basic address book services

POPS and IMAPS are the underlying way in which a user retrieves email from a server. The POP (Post Office Protocol) and the POPS (Secure POP) protocols provide users with the most basic ways in which to retrieve email messages from a remote server. This sidebar is an excerpt taken from Wikipedia regarding POP:
The IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)
and the IMAPS
(Secure IMAP) protocols provide more advanced message retrieval services such as multi-client connectivity. This allows the email user to use multiple desktop or webmail clients, while always seeing the exact same information. If a user logs into their email from work, through either webmail or a desktop email client, that user will see the exact same email, folders, etc. that they will see from home. This negates the need to sync machines, like a user’s home PC and their work PC, to maintain email between multiple clients.

The SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and the SMTPS (Secure SMTP) protocols provide clients (e.g. desktop client, webmail, and command line) with the basic ability to send email to a remote server.


Wikipedia states the following regarding SMTP:

Another basic email service is a simple web-based address book. The address book can contain a list of all users on the same email system and a list of private email addresses that only individual users have access to.


A simple web-based address book

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Advanced Email Services: POP-Before-SMTP & External Address Book

ASA offers more advanced services that may not be offered by other email providers. A couple of these services are POP-Before-SMTP and the use of an externally available address book.

POP-Before-SMTP is a service which allows users to send email through their ASA email server from an external network, such as another ISP. All ASA email servers restrict who can send email through them by only allowing certain network addresses to connect to the SMTP port. Usually the only allowed network is the AREN network space or a network that has been pre-approved by ASA and the customer. The POPS and IMAPS services require users to enter their individual user IDs and passwords when receiving their email, thus validating the user and the IP address they logged in from. The POP-Before-SMTP service maintains a database of these IP addresses and allows them to also send email through the server, even if on a “non-approved” network.

ASA offers an advanced address book service which has advantages over the simple address book. One advantage is the ability to use the address book from a desktop email client like Outlook® and Thunderbird®. This gives the user an opportunity to use auto-complete features and searching from desktop email clients that have the ability to connect to the address book.

An option that is available upon request is port translation. This service is for individual users that subscribe to an ISP that only allows SMTPS traffic to cross their network when it is going to their email servers. We provide alternate ports for end-users to connect to, so that they can use ASA’s email services from that ISP.


Address book auto-complete in desktop client

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Webmail Services

Along with using desktop email clients most users need a way in which to send and receive email through the Internet from home or elsewhere. Webmail is the ability to send and receive email from a web browser in any Internet accessible location. ASA offers a webmail system that provides all the basic email services and a lot of advanced services that some webmail systems do not provide.


Webmail login screen

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Basic Webmail Services

Along with the ability to send and receive email, ASA’s webmail system provides other basic services, such as personal calendars and personal webmail address books. The webmail front-end has been designed to resemble other desktop email software for better ease of use and more sense of familiarity.

Webmail’s main view provides all the basic tools needed to send email, receive email, and other abilities, such as providing the user a way in which to arrange their email in folders and sub-folders and to have their email automatically sorted and highlighted.

Here is a screen-shot of the main view of an ASA webmail system:


Main webmail view

ASA provides the ability to view and edit personal and global address books within the webmail system.

The global address book is a dynamic address book that always stores information about other users on the email system. It is kept up to date with the current information on other users in the system and is available to everyone.

The personal address book is easy to use and can be created from manually inserted contacts or exported address books from other webmail programs and desktop email clients. It allows for users to add their own contacts, which only they can view. Users can store contact information in this address book such as nick names, names, email addresses, and extra notes for friends, relatives, and co-workers.


Personal and global webmail address book

The screen-shot below is of the reading view in ASA’s webmail system. This view provides the ability to forward a message, forward a message as an attachment, reply to a sender, and reply to a sender and all of the original recipients. The view also contains links to the previous and next email messages, printable versions of an email, and viewable message headers. Users are given the ability to perform actions such as one-touch additions of the current email sender to their personal address book, as well as a button to move the message directly into any folder or sub-folder.


Reading view in webmail

The webmail system provides a personal calendar where users can keep up with their daily activities and reminders. Users can view their calendar in a daily or monthly view as well as having a small version on the left navigation screen.


Personal calendar

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Advanced Webmail Services

Some options available in ASA’s webmail system:


Webmail options

One of the advanced services that is available allows users to take advantage of multiple identities with separate full names, signatures, and reply email addresses. This could be useful for individuals that serve many roles within their work environment, such as teachers who also coach sports or host events.


Managing multiple identities

These individuals could send and receive email from different accounts (e.g. coach@yourdomain.com, teacher@yourdomain.com) to keep their correspondences separated according to which identity they are using. By applying message filters these different accounts could be kept separate by the webmail system. Message filters do this by moving email of each identity to a separate location when received.


Message filter

Here are several options for the small calendar that users can choose to display in the navigation frame such as size and colors:


Small calendar options

The following screen-shot shows the option page for maintaining an “Out of Office” reply. This can be used when users are not able to check their email for extended periods of time and want the webmail system to reply with a user-defined message:


“Out of Office” reply

The new-mail notification page is available to let users set up notifications for new mail. Users can have the webmail system change the current browser’s title bar, create a popup window alert, and play an audio clip.


New mail options

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Administration

User Administration

User administration is simple and secure using ASA’s web-based administrative interface. The administration system is designed to be user-friendly by providing navigational text links, as well as graphical icons. SSL is enabled by default when using the administration interface. SSL encrypts all communications with the system.


Administrative interface login

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Basic User Administration

Basic administration is made simple by the main administrative page, which contains links to the current administrator’s personal information, as well as quick links to all other user and group information.



Main administrative page

The user administration page provides simple access for editing user attributes, changing user passwords, and creating and deleting users. Here, administrators can also create new user templates, which create default settings for new users, such as default email address userid@yourdomain.com. This page also allows administrators to search for specific users by name and account characteristics.


User administration page

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Advanced User Administration

Advanced user information is just as easy to configure as a user’s basic information. In the user generic administration page, administrators can edit a user’s name, titles, date of birth, sex, phone numbers, addresses, department information, room information, picture, as well as a lot of other useful information.


User generic administration page

On the user email administration page, administrators can edit user’s email information, including their email address, forwarding email addresses, alternative email aliases, email quotas, and vacation messages.


User email administration page

On the user UNIX administration page, administrators can edit users’ access to login to the server and upload web pages. Here it is also possible to set expiration dates on passwords and edit user’s group memberships.


User UNIX administration page

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Group Administration

Administrators can arrange multiple users and email addresses into groups for ease of use. Groups come in handy when needing to send an email to one email address and have multiple users and email addresses receive it. When setting up a new group, create a new global email address (teachers@yourdomain.com) and add selected users to the group. Along with users on this email system, administrators can also include email addresses from any other email system (e.g. yahoo.com) in the group membership.

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Basic Group Administration

The main group administration page allows simple access to creating new groups and deleting current groups. This page also allows users to search for specific groups by name and group characteristics.


Group administration page

On the group generic administration page, administrators can edit a group’s name, description, and add or remove users from the group.


Group generic administration page

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Advanced Group Administration

On the group email administration page, administrators can edit group email addresses, alternative email aliases, forwarding email addresses, and email quotas.


Group email administration page

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by Jay Naves


Copyright Information
© Alabama Supercomputer Authority 2007

The Alabama Supercomputer Authority (ASA) is a state-funded corporation founded in 1989 to operate the Alabama Supercomputer Center (ASC) and the Alabama Research and Education Network (AREN).

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