Running a private mail server for six years, easy peasy

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2021-08-16 14:30:08

TL;DR – High-level overview of running my own, small private Linux mail server since late 2015. I’ve encountered surprisingly few issues and many valuable learnings. Initial setup (including monitoring, backups, configuration management) has taken some time, but recurring maintenance since then has been an estimated 10 – 20 minutes per month. Worth it for me, but probably not for most people. The next best thing, in my opinion, is with one’s own TLD.

The main reason for this writeup is meant as a response to the sentiment I keep reading about in IT forums, that it’s “very time demanding”, “impossible to maintain”, “a pain to make sure your mails are being delivered”. I understand the reasons, and tend to agree when it comes to large-ish selfhosted mail deployments with hundreds of users and tens of thousands of mails per day, which also happens to be part of my current day job. It’s true that many IT people understandably don’t want to invest private time into things which appears to be another kind of work assignment. But personally, it fills me with satisfaction to self-host my own infrastructure, my little internet island where I’m root, especially in times of mega corporations trying (and succeeding) in redefining “the internet” as a portfolio of services only they can offer, with little alternative.

As mentioned above, I’m working in Linux administration / engineering and know my way around technical aspects of mail systems. I also love to self-host stuff, and it motivates me to approach all kinds of challenges when it comes to making things work. As one of the positive side effects, I’m often able to apply the experience I’ve gained privately during my career.

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