Running My Own OS X Mail Server

I’ve been contemplating about running my own mail server lately. With great performing and affordable hardware like the Mac Mini, it’s difficult to ignore the endless possibilities of what I could use it for.

So why would I want to run my own mail server when I can just pay a small monthly fee for an IMAP account at a hosting company somewhere? Why not take the unnecessary complexities and potential reliability issues of hosting my own email out of the equation? Indeed it’s true that there is a higher barrier to entry if you don’t own the hardware needed to run your own mail server. There are many things to consider as well when running your own web server such as: what kind of web services is the hardware going to provide? Are you really going to dedicate one machine just for email? What about power solutions? Have you considered how much it will cost for a good uninterruptible power supply with line conditioning? What about a good local and offsite backup solution in case things go awry? It’s not a question of if, but when things will go wrong — believe me they will too.

Considering bandwidth at home

In North America, for the most part many areas have access to ridiculously fast broadband Internet that is relatively affordable. Network infrastructure is being upgraded in many places to support things like gigabit Internet as well. In my area, I am fortunate that I can get a 100 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up cable connection for less than $100 per month. At the moment, I’m on a not so fantastic 15mbps down and 1mbps up connection. On the surface, that doesn’t seem that bad, but it’s not nearly as fast as I’d like it to be. Since I don’t have cable TV anymore, I usually end up streaming some HD movies or TV shows from Netflix or iTunes. If I’m going to run my own web server out of my house, I’ll need to upgrade my bandwidth to give myself a little more breathing room.

The cost of the hardware

I haven’t yet made a decision, but I’m seriously considering just a base model Mac Mini, which should serve me well for email and DNS hosting. I’m going to be the only person using the server, so it’s not like I’ll need a multi processor setup. Besides, you would be surprised how much you can serve from current generation Mac Minis.

Here’s my preliminary list of hardware components and the costs that accompany them for what I want to do:

Cost breakdown for the hardware: $1066.00

The benefits

For myself and perhaps many other Mac nerds, the reasons why we like to configure and run our own servers boils down to giving ourselves the power and control many of us crave over our own data. Furthermore, we also venture down these paths because we have a thirst for learning new things.

By running my own mail server, I get the satisfaction I’m maintaining access to my own critical personal communication data. This is why we choose to do the things we do like running our own servers — because we can, and there’s very little cost and not that much complexity involved in doing things our own way.