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email aggregator / gateway / proxy add-in RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Hey folks,

    Long time no post.  ;-)

    Quite some time ago there was a thread that discussed the idea of building an email aggregator add-in which would allow several POP3 or IMAP mailboxes to be downloaded and stored into one location by WHS user, and then the WHS itself would expose an IMAP mailbox for of all of the aggregated mail.  It would also allow you to check this IMAP box either on the LAN or through the WAN (assuming you port forwarded your firewall appropriately or placed the WHS in the DMZ).\

    Did anybody ever build something like this?  I just did some googling and turned up nada other than some pricey commercial servers that technically can't be installed to WHS box (at least not w/o violation the EULA).

    If I can't find anything that will do this I'll whip one up for my own personal use (I have probably 90% of the mail C# code from other projects so it wouldn't be a huge deal).  If this is the case, is there anybody else out there that would find this useful enough for me to productize?

    I'm thinking that even for non-aggregation that this would be extremely useful, as 99% of ISP's aren't exposing IMAP centralized storage; they are exposing POP3.  While Google does offer IMAP, Yahoo currently does not.  So by using the "proxy" to read your POP3 mail, you end up centralized storage of your email, and it doesn't get copied down to device A, removed from server, and then later when you check email from device B there is no message to read / reply to.  I know for my wife she is constantly saying "oh ____...I read the email over *there*".  This add-in would solve that issue as all of her devices would be set to use the local add-in provided IMAP store.  It's just a better way to store the data in one shot on the server instead of spread throughout the various devices in the home, even if aggregation isn't being used.

    It also gives me a point whereby I can monitor (and even filter if desired) email the kids are sending and receiving, now that they are getting to that age.  For example, instead of taking the deny-some approach to email filtering, I could specifically allow-some only.  So there is no way they could send mail to someobdy I don't specifically allow in the gateway, or receive from somebody I specifically allow.

    It seems like this could be really useful for a lot of connected families with multiple devices, some of which they are using inside the firewall, some both inside and outside.  I know mine could use it.  An aggregator / gateway / proxy like this could solve a lot of problems at once.

    Thanks in advance for any feedback on this.

    Regards,
    Ryan Rogers
    Monday, February 23, 2009 9:54 PM

All replies

  • Bueller?  Bueller?

    ;-)

    Ryan
    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 8:30 PM
  • I'd have to say taht there's not a huge amount of interest in this topic, Ryan. Consider that Microsoft intentionally omitted any email capability from WHS because market research showed them that most people were very happy with their current hosted solutions. Also consider that the sum total of people who have seriously looked for this capability in the last couple of years seems to be in the low dozens, here and on Connect. I have to conclude that there just isn't much demand.

    If you have a need, though, I think you should go ahead.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 8:37 PM
    Moderator
  • Hey Ken thanks for the reply.
     
    I found the original thread from a year ago:

    http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whssuggestions/thread/3bb85ada-f80d-40ff-961d-f884ce6f19b8/#page:1

    It seems like there would be a niche need to fill here since quite a few people here throughout this thread were trying and ultimately settled on various non-WHS specific mail servers depending upon individual needs.  I maintained a year ago that the market research MS did was approprite: this isn't a mass market need, and shouldn't be part of WHS.  I still believe that.

    While I agree that most people are happy with their email solutions provided by ISP or via hotmail / gmail / yahoo / whatever, but what exactly is "most"?  80%?  95%?  99%?  99.9%?.  I think whatever the percentage is it's going to go lower, not higher, over time as more and more people start using more than one primary email account.  My wife in particular just joined this minority.  It would already be higher if companies like Google didn't offer email aggregation already.

    But even if most means 99.99%, if TDG is right and the home server market hits 90 million by 2015, even if WHS has only 50% market share, that's still: .0001 * .5 * 90,000,000 = 4500 potential units.  If half of them are willing to pay $100 for a solution to their problem, that's $225k in potential revenue.  And that's if only 1 in 10,000 WHS is interested, and if anything, I think that estimate will prove to be very, very low.

    In 2008 estimates are that 80k WHS units shipped.  Let's assume that the interested percentage is closer to 99% (1 in 100).  That's 800 units right there, or $40k if you again assume a $100 price tag and 50% market utilization.  I think that this would be on the high side, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.

    Let's say that's off by an order of magnitude and only 1 in 1000 is interested, and that the market can really only bear a $50 price tag and given competition from freeware the best you can hit is 25% market utilization.  So that's .001 * 80000 * .25 * $50 = $1000.  Clearly not worth the effort even for a solo developer with even zero overhead.  Of course, this ignores future sales, including the 150k to 200k or so WHS servers that will sell this year.  But still...hardly worth it...

    In reality the number if probably somewhere between those two extremes of 10 units and 400 units based on 80k shipped WHS units for 2008.  It's probably closer to the lower number. ;-(

    I think you're right, since I need it, I'll probaly go ahead and do it.  It may not ever make me a dime, and to get something workable for me won't take too long, probably < 100 hours total effort, since I have most of the protocol code already.  Enough so that I could put beta's out and see if anybody else likes / uses it, and then make a decision as to whether to productize it.

    But hey...if the snuggie can sell... ;-)

    - Ryan
    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 10:37 PM
  • I would guess that "most" is in the 85 to 90 percent range. I personally have "all the email accounts" since I have a hosted email server with unlimited addresses. :) But I'm very much the exception.

    I would definitely encourage you to hack something together. If it seems like people get interested, add some chrome, make it robust, and you've got a nice little WHS add-in. You won't profit on it (I guarantee you'll spend way to much time to be able to make your costs of development back) but you might at least be able to get a few bucks if you go the commercial route. (With the usual caveats about testing, "don't foist a beta on the public as a V1 product", etc. :))

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Wednesday, February 25, 2009 11:31 PM
    Moderator
  • I'm in the same research mode right now. I have multiple email accounts across multiple domains I'd like to aggregate and centrailize. But I'd like to take it a step further and provide shared address books, calendars, for my various users in my home and also be able to sync my own data with my Windows Mobile phone. It starts to sound like Small Business Server with Exchange would be a more appropriate solution. However, I'm not an network admin pro and I like the simplicity and ease-of-use of WHS. So in my search for a solution I've found SmarterMail http://www.smartertools.com/SmarterMail/   It comes FREE for a 10-user installation. It's an Exchange-like Windows product that sounds like it can theoretically do what you're looking for, and what I'm looking for. There's also a variety of other similar products but they either run on Linux or are cost prohibitive.
    Saturday, February 28, 2009 7:07 PM
  • SmarterMail: do a search here in the forums and you'll find that a number of users have installed it on their servers. I haven't seen much bad written about it, either. I don't need it for reasons already stated, and (as I also already stated) Microsoft intentionally left this capability out of WHS for a reason, but if you really think you need it, SmarterMail looks like a decent option from here.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Sunday, March 1, 2009 5:35 PM
    Moderator
  • Yeah, smartermail came up over a year ago in that thread I linked.  Not that it's a real problem for me, but it's not WHS integrated, and therefore administering it is beyond my wife's capibilities.  If we need to add a permissible inbound and/or outbound email address for my son's account, I need her to be able to do that so I'm not being pestered several times a week. 

    I've been playing around with VPOP3 WHS, but it doesn't support IMAP.  So it doesn't fully address our problems.  And while it is integrated with WHS, I wouldn't call it "intuitive".  It very much feels like a WHS interface slapped on top of an existing product, and not something that was designed from the bottom up to be easy to use and administer.  Unlike smartermail, it's not free, but I wouldn't call it expensive either.  It's very reasonably priced for what you get.  If it had IMAP, I'd probably use it.

    Ryan
    Sunday, March 1, 2009 6:16 PM