View Full Version : Exim vs Sendmail vs Qmail vs Postfix

09-04-2003, 09:10 AM

Just curious. What prompted you to use Exim over the other MTAs available? I've heard both good and bad news about qmail, and Postfix seems to be pretty good as well. How does Exim compare in raw performance, security, and scalability against the rest?

DirectAdmin Support
09-04-2003, 12:27 PM

We chose exim mainly due to its ease of configuration. It allowed for easy addition of extra features such as popb4smtp, majordomo and spamassasin.

I did a quick google search and found a comparisons page with everything you could want to know about the 4 of them.



09-04-2003, 12:52 PM
According to that site:

Security: low-medium high
Installation: medium easy-medium
Configuration: easy-medium easy
Performance: medium high
Features: medium-high medium

Hmmm, do you think Postfix is a better option? Exim seems to be better than most MTAs on that site, but rated lower than Postfix. Not that I'm particular over this anyway, glad to be out of sendmail, was quite a pain to configure :cool:

04-12-2006, 08:52 PM
Qmail is the best MTA in my oppinion, but you need to look closely to the license.

I have it on lots of machines installed for over 2 years now .. and did not had any problems.

There is a great tutorial on www.qmailrocks.org but it deffinetly won't work with DA.

Anyway i warmly recommend the DA team to start implementing the qmail MTA as a option in the MTA package as it's very reliable.

If I am allowed to say the 2nd reason Plesk had so much success (1st being the outstanding marketing strategy) against Cpanel endelss (exim) nightmares was using qmail as a MTA.

04-14-2006, 11:12 AM
We've had the qmail discussion before.

qmail hasn't been worked on by the author since 1999.

Lots of people create lots of patches. Not all compatible with each other.

The qmail license doesn't allow qmail to be patched, compiled, and distributed. Or even for the source code to be patched and distributed for a local compile.

Each server must have the source code and all the patches installed, and the patches run against the source, before it's compiled.

It's secure. It's fast. And it's a nightmare to get it to do what you want if what you want didn't exist in 1999.

And it's NOT RFC compliant.

It would not be easy to have DA give you an option.

And it would add untold complexity to the email system.


04-14-2006, 11:42 PM
You are totally right. But we are talking about reliability, stability and performance here. I've been studying DA for the last month by the manual, functionality etc and tested it on different hosting machines. Please don't tell me that if sw-soft could build a system based on qmail and DA team cannot :)

Anyway consider it like a recommendation, maybe you want to start a poll for it.

04-15-2006, 08:12 AM
WARNING: Below is my opinion. And it isn't pretty

Originally posted by omikron
You are totally right. But we are talking about reliability, stability and performance here.
And you're spreading FUD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FUD). Show me where Exim isn't reliable. Show me where Exim isn't stable. And show me where Exim doesn't perform.

In realworld tests by trusted testing organizations.

I've been studying DA for the last month by the manual, functionality etc and tested it on different hosting machines.
And I've been actually using it, installing it for many clients, building a support team around it, developing plugins and subsystems for it (including the exim.conf file DA uses and the SpamBlocker Plugin for managing blocklist use). For not the last 30 days, but for over 30 months.

I started using DA after two years of frustration with Plesk, trying to make fundamental setting changes to qmail so it would be RFC-compliant (in other words a good interplayer on the 'net), work with multiple blocklists, allow those blocklists to be chosen on a per-domain basis, etc. I downloaded and read Life with qmail and bought and read Dave Sill's excellent qmail book. I was getting nowhere; it would take almost a complete rewrite.

Which is impossible because qmail is copyrighted by Dan Bernstein, it's NOT free software, you have no license to modify it except under the terms quoted on his website (which is currently down and which has no publicly available whois record (again not RFC-compliant) and there appears no other way to contact him.

I'm going from memory, here, but Dan Bernstein's "permission to distribute" (it's most certainly not a license though I may have called it that in the past) says you can make any changes you want for your own use but you cannot redistribute them as part of qmail; you must distribute them separately.

And as a result, there are an uncountable amount of patches for qmail to do just about everything you can think of (except be RFC compliant) but not all of them work together. And once you find the ones that do, you cannot distribute qmail to your clients already patched and ready for use.

And Bernstein also says (on his website) that he owns all the rights to qmail and he can take them away from you at any time.

And all those uncounted patches? What licenses, if any, are they distributed under? What owners are waiting in the wings to exact their toll on you based on their own distribution policies, copyrights and/or licenses or lack thereof? How can you or anyone else assure compliance with all of those?

So let's move on...

Please don't tell me that if sw-soft could build a system based on qmail and DA team cannot :)
I cannot speak for JBMC (the company that produces DirectAdmin), but as for myself, I can certainly tell you.

I was a Plesk Gold Partner before I decided to get involved with DirectAdmin.

SWsoft obtained a heavily patched copy of qmail when they purchased Plesk (the company).

Plesk distributed, and SWsoft continues to patch and distribute, this patched copy of qmail, in an RPM. Perhaps they have a separate agreement with Dan Bernstein; since he's the author and controls all rights, there's nothing to say they don't have one. There's no requirement that such an agreement be public.

But JBMC has no such agreement.

While I have no connection with JBMC except that I purchase and use their software and volunteer to be an administrator on this forum, I can speak for myself and say I believe it would be very dangerous for JBMC, absent of such an agreement, to do anything except start at the beginning with a copy of qmail, and put together the patches they thought might work together, get distribution rights for all those patches, write their own patches where suitable other patches weren't available, and then distribute the original qmail source code and their own patches separately, and write a patch and compilation routine to be run on each server, to make it work.

And then hope that Bernstein doesn't take away the permission he's implicitly given them since he can.

Dan Bernstein is a brilliant man (read his wikipedia entry here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Bernstein)), but in my opinion he's not of the opinion that working for a free, open and cooperative Internet based on published RFCs, is something he does.

For more information on RFCs, and their meaning on and to the Internet, read the wikipedia article here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_Comments).

Anyway consider it like a recommendation,
I am. And that's why I'm strongly recommending against it.

maybe you want to start a poll for it.
I won't, though you certainly can.

In my opinion, for a commercial product to include qmail absent a license for continued distribution is dangerous and foolhardy.

But as I wrote above, that's my opinion. Your opinion is certainly welcome.


04-15-2006, 01:13 PM
Hsphere uses qmail and while it generally is OK I can say that there is not much you can do with it if you need something other than what psoft puts out. It seems much more of a pieced together system than what I am seeing with Exim. Though my Exim experience is pretty small I must admit.

But hey it works, seems quite configurable and is RFC compliant. Mix it with Dovecot and it seems to be a good system.

Just my .02 worth.

08-08-2011, 08:41 AM

I have been using qmail since the 90s and qmailadmin (with vpopmail) as a customer "control panel" for virtual domain email for almost as long. I do not have any other control panel interfaces available for my customers, ie, apache, DNS, etc.

I am interested in DirectAdmin as a possible CP interface for web and DNS control for customers...maybe other things as well. However, I think trying to migrate qmailadmin, vpopmail and all that goes with that (ucspi, rblsmtpd, etc) would Exim to be too much trouble to be worth it.

Is DA customizable to the extent that I can simply modify the customer links to basically ignore all the Exim stuff and link right to qmailadmin instead? Will DA even install without Exim?


BTW, I know this is a 6 year old thread (sorry!), so I'll just point out that a couple of years ago, Dan Bernstein finally opened up the license for qmail to the public domain.

08-08-2011, 08:48 AM
Public domain isn't a license; it's a term for something without copyright. Is it really now without copyright, or under some kind of open source license? If the latter, which license?

To answer your question, Exim is very integrated into DirectAdmin, and DirectAdmin is itself, closed source, so it's not easy to change the integration. While DirectAdmin can certainly run without exim running, you'd be fully responsible for managing all your email for all your users and their accounts. Perhaps it would be doable with a (probably rather complex) set of code to scrape the DirectAdmin files and create a new structure file with qmail could use. Perhaps not. I'd think the scope study itself would take many, many hours.

A more workable option would be to run your hosting on a DirectAdmin server and your email on a different server. You can reskin DirectAdmin to have all links to email go to a different login on a different server.


08-08-2011, 08:50 AM
Qmail is pure garbage...who cares about qmail?

08-08-2011, 09:26 AM
Thanks, Jeff. I guess it might be worth my looking into what it would take to migrate away from qmail, qmailadmin, etc.

Is it safe to assume that DA itself doesn't mind if you're using Maildir?

applesauce: I don't think silly religious wars are helpful to anyone. At the time I started using qmail, it was the by far the best alternative to Sendmail. It's a PITA to get it working well in today's environment, but once you do, it just works. I still prefer it to Sendmail, the only other MTA I have any real experience with.

Exim may well be much better today...it wasn't at the time. If I were starting from scratch today, with a choice of any MTA, based on reputation alone, I'd probably go with Postfix.

08-12-2011, 10:23 AM
DirectAdmin can work with either Maildir or mbox; Maildir is in my opinion the best project to ever come out of Dan Bernstein's work, and much better than mbox. While the directory structure is a bit convoluted, it solves the problems of mbox well. I'm not certain that the file-naming structure will just work under Dovecot (that's what DirectAdmin uses for pop/imap), but I believe it does. You will, however, need to redo all your indexes, so you may lose some information. I believe that DirectAdmin now defaults to Dovecot/Maildir on new installs but you may want to check to be sure.

At one time Plesk required qmail, and I must say it was the main thing I didn't like about Plesk. Looking at the Parallels Plesk site right now, I see these supported mail servers:

Qmail 1.03 (IPv6 available)
Postfix 2.3 (IPv6 available)
MailEnable Standard / Professional / Enterprise 4.26
MailEnable Standard / Professional / Enterprise 5.10
SmarterMail 6.8
IceWarp (Merak) 10.0.0, 10.2.2
CommuniGate Pro 5.2.15
so it appears they're now offering choice.

DirectAdmin really can't offer choice unless they do a lot of rewriting; the design is very Exim-specific.

(By way of background; I've never been an email bigot; I started with Sendmail before we even used the Internet, and I still know how to program sendmail.cf manually while no one even teaches it anymore; everyone else I know programs it with M4 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M4_%28computer_language%29) [wikipedia.org]. I bought the qmail book, and I studied it. I tried hard to like it.)


Richard G
08-12-2011, 03:31 PM
If I were starting from scratch today, with a choice of any MTA, based on reputation alone, I'd probably go with Postfix.
I would prefer Postfix anytime when starting from scratch. Had it running here for years and I find it easyer to configure then Exim.
And with seperate config files, lots of extra options are possible to customise (not all of then RFC compatible like the helo_access where you can drop connections already by helo message if you want).
Also things like spamassassin are easy to implement.

However, Exim is used by most hosting providers because at least 2 of the most well known panels Cpanel and DA (I don't know if Plesk does too) use them, ofcourse with good reason.

Maybe Exim is a bit better to use with virtual accounts, but imho Exim and Postfix are the best around.

08-13-2011, 11:06 AM

Perhaps you just don't know exim well enough :). For example, you can certainly drop connections by helo if you want to. In fact we do, if it doesn't meet our standards; check EDIT#25 in the SpamBlocker exim.conf file for DirectAdmin, Version 4 (http://www.nobaloney.net/downloads/spamblocker/DirectAdminSpamBlocker4.1/SpamBlockerTechnology-Version-4.1.exim.conf.txt) (nobaloney.net).

SpamAssassin and ClamAV are easy to implement in DirectAdmin as well, and are already implemented inthe same file (link above), though not turned on by default, since DirectAdmin doesn't include them by default.

Plesk doesn't use exim; you can find the list of MTAs usable in Plesk in my previous post above, #13.

You write:

Maybe Exim is a bit better to use with virtual accounts,
and of course that's an important reason to use it in webhosting, and in fact when hosting multiple domains for any reasons where email is important.


Richard G
08-27-2011, 09:48 AM
Sorry for the late reply.

Perhaps you just don't know exim well enough .:)
You are correct there.:)
The reason for this is that Exim works with all kind of codes which one should learn and I did not have time to do a very good study of it. While Postfix uses plain and simple easy to understand textfiles to do the same. I didn't have time to learn Exim fully, just most of the "need to know" stuff.

However, support for Exim is better on hosting and hosting control panels forums. And the support is easy to understand, that counts too.;)
And like already said.... the virtual accounts support of Exim is just better.

08-29-2011, 02:33 PM
I have been using Qmail as a primary MTA in my small companies (under 50 accounts) for 14 years, but last night I have given up. While in France, I have finally found an excuse to install AUTH SMTP on Qmail, so I can send e-mails without struggling to find SMTP servers of hotel's ISPs. Actually, AUTH SMTP was somehow installed already, so all I wanted was to persuade Qmail to accept at least one Username/Password pair to allow me relaying the mail.

After a long night (+ a short morning) I have found out that Qmail used to be a great program, but even a reasonably experienced administrator & programmer can bang his head to the wall trying to make a standard configuration in the mess Qmail has become.

I have realized that while there might be a divine match between Qmail patches and utilities for checking passwords, I obviously do not adhere to The Religion that could bless me with this knowledge. Without meaningful logging and next-to-nil possibilities for testing individual modules, the administrator is blindfolded and can only systematically try to patch the Qmail (every time from the start, there are no reversals - and you are never sure whether an essential patch was forgotten) and combine various 3rd party utilities (from long gone URLs) that are actually essential pieces of Qmail.

After more than 12 hours of trying and erring at seemingly trivial task, I have managed to break even what used to work as a Qmail and then I have realized that Exim is installed (on FC15 machine) and should not be far from working. In about 2 hours (being the first time to lay hands on Exim) I have managed to define all the user accounts (not many, about 10), persuade Exim to deliver mail to the existing Maildir folders, relay mail from local network without bothering users with authorization, relay mail from outside users if they authenticate (only after TLS is started; and no, it is not an open relay) and even relay all outgoing mail through the ISP's server first, to avoid paranoid servers to drop the mail from our small server.

I am not sure whether a sophisticated attack could compromise our new server, but with Qmail I was never totally sure what is going on at all and whether some sophisticated security (as in limiting available memory) is actually preventing even normal users to deliver their regular mail. Qmail was always a pain in the ... when setting it up, but today it just can not be recommended to anyone (except S&M adherents) as it has become a mix of outdated, poorly compatible and long abandoned pieces of SW that miraculously still provide excellent service most of the time, but for the price of lots of grey hair (and hours lost in vain) every time you dare to enter a "cd /var/qmail".