New Webmail Software!

We have just rolled out a new webmail package based on the RoundCube software. We hope that this new interface will be faster, easier, and generally a better experience for everyone.

Why the sudden change? We have relied on the horde software for many years now to deliver a consistent webmail interface to our users, and it has served well. However, the version of Horde we have been running all these years is long out of development, new features are not being developed, security issues are not being corrected, and the entire platform relies on version 4 of the PHP scripting language, which is long out of date as well. Because of all these issues, we have had to maintain a webserver running antiquated software, for the sole purpose of keeping horde running. These issues, and many more have caused us to decide to retire horde over the next few weeks.

We evaluated several new webmail packages, including the newest release of Horde itself. Consistently, people preferred RoundCube by a wide margin. If you have any question, don’t hesitate to contact us via email at support@amplex.net.

Migrating Address Books from Horde to Roundcube

Since we are about ready to take the new webmail service live, I thought it best I detail out the procedure for copying your address book from the old webmail service, over to the new one. Unfortunately, since horde will only export to CSV (comma separated values) format, and roundcube will only import from vCard format, an intermediate step is needed. Follow these steps and you should have no trouble:

1) Get the data out of horde.

You will need to login to the old webmail service first, which has been moved to: oldwebmail.amplex.net

Sign in as you normally would, and go to the address book. Click on “Import/Export” at the top, and the very bottom of this page is a button that simply says, “export.” Click it, you will be prompted to download a file, this is your contacts list. Save it someplace where you can find it, because you will be opening it in a bit.

And you are done with old-webmail, you can sign out at anytime.

2) Convert the data to vCard format.

This file contains your address book in CSV format, but we need it to be in vCard format for the new webmail software. First you need to open this file, I recomend using notepad to open it, but any text editor will do.

Open the conversion tool in a new window by clicking here.

You want to copy the entre contents of the file and paste it into step 1 of the conversion tool. If you are using notepad you can click on edit, then select all, to highlight all the data in the file at once. Once you have copied all the text, paste it into the conversion tool, step 1.

Click on Step 2, you probably won’t have to change anything here, I didn’t.

Click on step 3, the text you see should be your address book, converted to vCard format. Highlight all of it, and copy it. Open a new text editor window, and paste all of the data inside. Save this file as something you can find easily, because next you will upload the list into the new webmail system.

3) Important to Roundcube

Now you should have the data in a format that the new webmail software can understand. First you will need to login to the new webmail software by clicking here.

Click on Address Book at the top, then select the import contacts icon, which should be the forth one from the left at the top of the address book page. Browse for the new file you have created, and click import. With a little luck, you have just moved your address book over to the new webmail!

4) Issues?

Having trouble? Please feel free to send a support request to support@amplex.net, asking us to try to migrate your address book for you. Please understand, we expect to get a lot of these, so it may be several days before we can complete your request, please be patient.

Mail servers were slow today

Mail processing was slowed today due to a high load on the machine that checks mail for viruses and spam. The problem occured while performing upgrades to the operating system.

How is mail processed?   It’s far more complex than it appears…

There are 3 machines responsible for processing mail – 2 machines (named sylvio and paulie) serve as the front end and are responsible for initially receiving incoming and outgoing mail, making a few preliminary checks to see if the recipient is valid, and storing the mail to disk (a process called queuing).   Once the mail is queued a seperate process sends the mail to a third server (tony) to be checked for spam and viruses and then (presuming no viruses were found) returns it to sylvio or paulie where it is again queued to disk.   A third process then collects the queued mail and performs final delivery to the local mailbox (for local users) or the recipient’s mail server (for non-local users).

Why so complex?   A bunch of good reasons actually…

  • 2 front end machines allow us to work on one machine without disrupting mail processing.
  • Spam filtering and virus checking is a slow and difficult process and requires considerable resources (CPU, Memory).   Separating the storage and processing helps prevent client timeouts.   Many mail clients (i.e. Outlook Express, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.) will generate error messages if the mail server does not accept mail quickly.
  • Delivering mail from disk (rather than from memory) is safer.   By queuing mail to disk before acknowledging acceptance we do not lose mail in the event of a software or server crash.
  • Mail is often bursty in nature – a few messages a minute to hundreds a minute.   Since it’s possible for the incoming rate to exceed the rate that messages can be checked for spam and viruses the front end servers hold the mail until the scanner can check it.

The servers have had an issue for some time where the servers will lock up when requested to make a ‘snapshot’ (backup) of the disk.  The lockup issue is a known problem with the operating system version we have been using.    We are in the process of upgrading the operating system which caused the high load on the server today.