Sendmail vs. Qmail

Thursday, January 14, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 1:48 AM

Originally Published 2003-10-15 22:16:10

Sendmail vs Qmail

Extracted from askslashdot

Tip provided by ?

ChiChiCuervo asks: "I've been wrestling with Sendmail for the past few months

because it's configuration system is a nightmare. So I was wondering what the

differences between/benefits of each (sendmail and qmail) mailer were, and what

everyone thinks of each."



Differences :

Well, there are some. At first, sendmail is an old dog - it's being hacked on for

long, much code was removed and much new was added. That's why it is at 8.9.2 now.

Of course, this gives you some kind of "guarantee" that is portable, stable and bug

free - however, there were posted many attacks against sendmail in the past which

is a nightmare from the PR standpoint. However, it really has matured and you are

on the safe side, if you use a modern version. qmail was written "with security in

mind", if you need a quick solution for e.g. a secure gateway, you should use qmail

instead of sendmail.

The configuration of both is fundamentally different. If you want to try sendmail,

you should really consider to get the sendmail book from O'Reilly, I would not have

been able to do anything useful with sendmail without that book. The documentation

on sendmail is rather non-existing, at least I have not found anything on the net

which describes sendmail comparable to the book. Once you understand, how sendmail

works, it is really easy to setup and maintain. You can do about everything you can

think of using sendmail's configuration file. You don't need to hack the source

code to use e.g. a new mapping for domains.

On the other side is qmail: It has its control files, a simple directory with 5 to

30 different files containing one special configuration (e.g. virtual domains or

host infos). These are explained nicely in their respective man page (man

qmail-control). However, I feel uncomfortable doing anything extended with qmail. I

don't like the structure of the source code, you have to dig far into it before you

understand how the things work.

Over the past, I've converted my personal boxes to run qmail. Why? There is no

special reason. Perhaps, because sendmail is updated every once in a while, while

qmail is at 1.03 since months (years?).

I'd recommened to try both - set up a personal system and play a little bit with

each MTA. Learning to administer a system is the most fun sport in the world :-)



Sendmail vs. Qmail :

Qmail is a much smaller mail server, and it lacks many of the features that most

mail servers have today. It has no spam filtering whatsoever. For example, unlike

sendmail, it does not verify the domain of the envelope sender, to make sure that

it resolves in DNS. It has no support for the RBL, the current sendmail supports

the RBL natively. Also, unlike sendmail, Qmail can't reject E-mail addressed a

mailbox that doesn't exist. Qmail will accept the E-mail message, and then it will

generate a "no such user" bounce internally.



But that's just the standard feature set. If you want extras like that, you'll be

able to find a patch or an add-on, somewhere, because chances are that someone has

already done it. Qmail's author has a reputation of being very inflexible, and over

the last couple of years people have come up with a plethora of patches and hacks.



Qmail's biggest problem is sending E-mail to many recipients. If you have a large

message with many addresses in the same domain, sendmail will connect to the

receiving mail server once, and it will send one copy of the message. Qmail will

connect multiple times, in parallel, and transmit a separate copy for each

recipient. If you routinely send large messages to many addresses, you'll waste a

lot of bandwidth. You can think of it this way: sendmail is optimized for saving

bandwidth, Qmail is optimized for saving time. If you have good bandwidth

available, Qmail will be faster. If you have limited bandwidth, and generate a lot

of mailing list traffic, sendmail will be faster.



Don't overlook the security aspect. Sendmail is bloatware. It's been hacked,

revised, and patched for years. There's so much bloat in there, Bill Gates is

envious. If it weren't for sendmail's existing large user base, Eric Allman would

be laughed off the Internet. On the other hand, Qmail is smaller and leaner, but it

still provides the basic SMTP functionality. Although the source code is not very

well commented, you'll be able to figure out how to get things done, if you need to

patch it.



One of the nice features of Qmail is that it supports an alternate mail storage

format, that's directory-based, instead of one huge file containing all your

messages. If you do a lot of POP3 serving, you can save a lot of CPU cycles and

disk activity with Qmail. Unfortunately, Pine does not natively support this

storage format. But, again, there are patches for that out there.



There, that should give you a rough idea of the strengths and weaknesses of Qmail.



Advantages of Qmail (mailing lists) :

Qmail had the advantage of having each user be able to set up a mailing list

without root permission. Thus, the "foo" account could create mailing lists called

foo-slashdot, foo-linux, foo-chickens, and foo-spam all without root permission.

For better functionality, there's ezmlm (EZ Mailing List Maker) which adds things

like auto-subscribe and unsubscribe, indexing, and all the other fun stuff you'd

see in Majordomo, but all CLI driven - few files to edit.

I've found that Qmail works great for small machines, and installed them for

domains where I have only a few accounts (or have to manage mailing lists). Larger

sites may want the vast configurability of Sendmail instead.



Postfix :

If you're gonna be looking at alternatives to sendmail, you should also check out

PostFix. (Used to be called Vmailer.) It was written by the same guy who wrote

TCPWrappers.

I've never configured it myself, so I don't know how easy or hard it is, but you

should have a look for yourself. We're running it at work, now, and it outperforms

sendmail by a fairly large margin.

http://www.postfix.org/

If you do stay with sendmail, I stronly urge you to use M4.

Here's how to do it on a RedHat system:

First, create your mc file:



# cd /usr/lib/sendmail-cf/cf

# cp redhat.mc myconfig.mc

# vi myconfig.mc





Customize it using information found on the links from http://www.sendmail.org . Pray for

divine inspiration.

Now build a cf file:



# cp -p /etc/sendmail.cf /etc/sendmail.cf.orig

# m4 ../m4/cf.m4 myconfig.mc > /etc/sendmail.cf

# /etc/rc.d/init.d/sendmail restart



Good luck!



Sendmail configuration nightmare-> SOLUTION :

Check this site



http://www.harker.com/webgencf



Also check out Exim :

Open source, very easy to configure, quite secure. Big installations would probably

prefer Postfix but I like exim and run it at home and so (now) do all my friends -

I also hacked up a mailing list manager for it.

http://www.exim.org/



Easy Sendmail Configuration w/ Linuxconf :

I use sendmail because linuxconf will generate all your configuration files for

you. It even does virtual hosts. So grab sendmail and linuxconf:

http://www.solucorp.qc.ca/linuxconf/



Use postfix :

I've never actually used sendmail, but I've looked at the config files, and they

look nasty. sendmail also is a big suid root, sgid bin binary which scares me to

death.



qmail is easier to configure, a whole lot more secure (from a design standpoint, I

neither know nor care how many holes are actually left in sendmail), and allows

users to admin their own lists (which is quite useful). It, however, is not a

sendmail replacement. It doesn't use .forward (which all of your users probably

use), it doesn't use /var/spool/mail (or the incorrect /usr/mail, /var/mail or

/var/spool/mail) but instead insists on putting mail in the users home directory.

It also lacks some of the more obscure features of sendmail (such as mail to news

gateways). I would say that qmail is just fine if you're the only user of your

system or if you have all very educated users. qmail's license prohibits

redistribution differing from the original package unless said distribution is

approved by the DJB (the author)



Postfix (www.postfix.org) is a new mailer by Wietse Venema co-author of SATAN and

author of TCP Wrappers and it's very cool. It was designed from the ground up to be

secure. It has an extremely easy to use configuration syntax allows for mail to be

places either under the users name in a specified directory (/var/spool/mail) or

under a specified name in the users directory, and allows for mbox or maildir

formatted mailboxes (most people use mbox, but maildir has better integrity). It

also is extremely flexible and can (I believe) do everything that sendmail can at

this point. It also allows for users to maintain their own lists. Basically the

only reason I would suggest you choose something other than postfix is that postfix

is currently in Beta and still under development. (Note that I'm not saying it's

not stable. I've been running it and it appears quite stable and secure to me, but

it is beta software) postfix is licensed by IBM and the license is sort of odd: it

tries to guarantee that the source will be available but makes if very clear that

all changes are to be available.



In summary:

* If you absolutely demand truly open software, use sendmail. Though the other

two licenses aren't awful, they leave much to be desired.

* If you're running a large server and demand high security (i.e. Hotmail, pobox,

Yahoo), do a lot of research and write your own so that it's optimized to your

system.

* If you have a bunch of lusers; you don't demand much security, and don't have

time to keep up with updates to a beta daemon go with sendmail.

* If you are the only user on your system, or it's just you and your Linux hacker

buddies and you don't want to bother with keeping up with updates to beta

software go with qmail

* If you want a really cool MTA and don't mind tracking updates (about one a

month) go with postfix



Qmail is quick and simple :

Qmail is the best if you want something secure and easy to configure. I was able to

set it up in about an 2 hours compared to 2 days with sendmail, and I still didn't

have sendmail working how I wanted it.

It will do many of the things that sendmail does - you just need to download some

additional packages. Qmail will do .forward with the dot-forward package, you can

use procmail or what ever one you want. You can use the /var/spool/mail setup all

you have to do is change a setting in the /var/qmail/rc file. It contains great

documentation.

It has some spam filtering abilities with add-on packages. I am using it on a

dial-up connection and masquerading as another user and machine. It will work with

pine, just just need to set some env variables and use /v/s/m



Qmail runs very well :

I've been using qmail for a couple years and it works great. It does feature SPAM

filtering and prevention techniques, though some of them aren't distributed with

the man package. However from being on the qmail mailing list for a while I can

tell you SPAM prevention was a big focus.

Additionally when paired with serialmail qmail runs really well over modem links.

You can setup a virtualdomain to hold mail in a queue until a user connects and

then flush the mail to the users personal linux box for delivery into user's

mailboxes. I realize this can be done with other tools, but qmail does this easily

and it works great.

Also regarding a POP server, personally I use a patched version of the University

of Washington's POP/IMAP server and it runs really well. I know a large ISP who

does this as well.

Finally you may be interested to know that there are some very large sites on the

net using qmail, or at least they appear to be (you never know for sure). I believe

Rocketmail (or maybe it was hotmail), and Internic were both believed to be using

qmail.

Overall I highly recommend using qmail, it runs great and is easier to configure

than sendmail.

Comments

On 2008-12-24 09:54:21 wwe superstars said:
I’ve been using qmail for a couple years and it works great. It does feature SPAM
filtering and prevention techniques, though some of them aren’t distributed with
the man package. However from being on the qmail mailing list for a while I can
tell you SPAM prevention was a big focus.
Additionally when paired with serialmail qmail runs really well over modem links.
You can setup a virtualdomain to hold mail in a queue until a user connects and
then flush the mail to the users personal linux box for delivery into user’s
mailboxes. I realize this can be done with other tools, but qmail does this easily
and it works great.
Also regarding a POP server, personally I use a patched version of the University
of Washington’s POP/IMAP server and it runs really well. I know a large ISP who
does this as well.
Finally you may be interested to know that there are some very large sites on the
net using qmail, or at least they appear to be (you never know for sure). I believe
Rocketmail (or maybe it was hotmail), and Internic were both believed to be using
qmail.
Overall I highly recommend using qmail, it runs great and is easier to configure
than sendmail.

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