How to Easily Set up a Full-Fledged Mail Server on Ubuntu 16.04 with iRedMail

Setting up your own mail server on Linux is complex and tedious, until you meet iRedMail. This tutorial is going to show you how you can easily and quickly set up a full-fledged mail server on Ubuntu 16.04 with iRedMail under 20 minutes.

What is iRedMail?

iRedMail is a shell script that automatically install and configure all necessary mail server components on your Linux/BSD server and thus eliminates manual installation and configuration. Supported OS are as follows:

  • RHEL/CentOS
  • Debian/Ubuntu
  • FreeBSD/OpenBSD

Open-source software used in iRedMail:

  • Postfix
  • Dovecot
  • Apache, Nginx
  • OpenLDAP, ldapd
  • MySQL/MariaDB, PostgreSQL
  • Amavised-new
  • SpamAssassin
  • ClamAV
  • Roundcube webmail
  • SOGo Groupware
  • Fail2ban
  • Awstats
  • iRedAPD

iRedMail features:

  • All components are open-source.
  • TLS is enabled by default. SMTP/IMAP over TLS, HTTPS webmail
  • Create as many virtual mailboxes as you want in a web-based admin panel.
  • Stores mail accounts in OpenLDAP, MySQL/MariaDB, or PostgreSQL.

It is recommended that you follow the instructions below on a clean install Ubuntu 16.04 system that has at least 2GB of RAM, as after the installation your server will use more than 1GB of RAM. If you need to do this on a VPS, then I recommend Linode, from which you can get a 2GB VPS for only 10 USD per month. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Before the Installation

First, make sure your server IP isn’t listed in any email blacklist. You can go to mxtoolbox.com and dnsbl.info to check your server IP address. If it’s in a blacklist, you can delete your VPS instance in Linode and create a new one. As Linode uses an hourly billing model, you won’t be charged by month, but by how many hours you used, which makes it convenient to delete a VPS instance.

Once you have a server with good IP reputation, SSH into your Ubuntu 16.04 server and update all software.

sudo apt update;sudo apt upgrade

Then set a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) for your server with the following command.

sudo hostnamectl set-hostname mail.your-domain.com

We also need to update /etc/hosts file.

sudo nano /etc/hosts

Edit it like below:

127.0.0.1       mail.your-domain.com localhost

Save and close the file. To see the changes, re-login and use the following command to see your hostname.

hostname -f

Don’t forget to set A record and MX record for your domain name.

Setting up a Mail Server on Ubuntu 16.04 with iRedMail

Next, download the iRedMail Bash installer with wget. At the time of writing, the latest version of iRedMail is 0.9.7, released on July 1, 2017. Please go to iRedMail download page (http://www.iredmail.org/download.html)  to check out the latest version.

wget https://bitbucket.org/zhb/iredmail/downloads/iRedMail-0.9.7.tar.bz2

Extract the tarball.

tar xvf iRedMail-0.9.7.tar.bz2

Then cd into the newly created directory.

cd iRedMail-0.9.7/

Add executable permission to the iRedMail.sh script.

chmod +x iRedMail.sh

Next, run the Bash script with sudo privilege.

sudo bash iRedMail.sh

The ncurse-based setup wizard will appear. Select Yes.

iredmail ubuntu 16.04

The next screen will ask you to select the mail storage path. You can use the default one /var/vmail.

iredmail ubuntu

Next, choose your preferred web server: Apache or Nginx. You need to use up and down arrow and press the spacebar to select.

iredmail installation

Then select the storage backend. Choose one that you are familiar with. This tutorial chose MariaDB.

iredmail server

If you selected MariaDB or MySQL, then you will need to set the MySQL root password.

iredmail ubuntu setup

Please note that if you selected MariaDB, then you don’t need password to log into MariaDB shell. Instead of running the normal command:

mysql -u root -p

you can run the following command to login, with sudo and without providing MariaDB root password. This is because MariaDB uses unix_socket authentication plugin, which allows users to use OS credentials to connect to MariaDB. But you still need to set root password in iRedMail setup wizard.

sudo mysql -u root

Next, enter your first mail domain. You can add multiple mail domains later in the web-based admin panel. This tutorial assumes that you want an email account like [email protected], in that case, you need to enter your-domain.com here, without sub-domain.

email server software

Next, set a password for the mail domain administrator.

install iredmail ubuntu

Choose optional components.

install iredmail server

Now you can review your configurations. Type Y to begin the installation of all mail server components.

install iredmail on ubuntu 16.04

At the end of installation, choose y to use firewall rules provided by iRedMail and restart firewall.

install iredmail server on ubuntu 16.04

Now iRedMail installation is complete. You will be notified the URL of webmail, SOGo groupware and web admin panel and the login credentials. The iRedMail.tips file contains important information about your iRedMail server.

********************************************************************
* URLs of installed web applications:
*
* - Roundcube webmail: httpS://mail.your-domain.com/mail/
* - SOGo groupware: httpS://mail.your-domain.com/SOGo/
*
* - Web admin panel (iRedAdmin): httpS://mail.your-domain.com/iredadmin/
*
* You can login to above links with below credential:
*
* - Username: [email protected]
* - Password: *********
*
*
********************************************************************
* Congratulations, mail server setup completed successfully. Please
* read below file for more information:
*
*   - /home/gourd/iRedMail-0.9.5-1/iRedMail.tips
*
* And it's sent to your mail account [email protected]
*
********************* WARNING **************************************
*
* Please reboot your system to enable all mail services.
*
********************************************************************

Reboot your Ubuntu 16.04 server.

sudo shutdown -r now

Once your server is back online, you can visit the web admin panel.

https://mail.your-domain.com/iredadmin/

Because it’s using a self-signed TLS certificate, so you need to add security exception. Login with the postmaster mail account.

iredmail web admin panel

In the Add tab, you can add multiple domains or mail users.

iredmail add mailboxes

After you create a user, you can visit the Roundcube webmail address and login with the new mail user account.

https://mail.your-domain.com/mail/

iredmail roundcube

And test email sending and receiving. Please note that you may need to wait for a few minutes to receive emails because greylisting is enabled by default. You can change password and create filter in RoundCube.

Installing Let’s Encrypt TLS Certificate

Since the mail server is using a self-signed TLS certificate, both desktop mail client users and webmail client users will see a warning. To fix this, we can obtain and install a free Let’s Encrypt TLS cert.

Obtaining the Certificate

First, install Let’s Encrypt (certbot) client on Ubuntu 16.04.

sudo apt install letsencrypt

Then use the webroot plugin to obtain the certificate. Replace red text with your actual data.

sudo letsencrypt certonly --webroot --agree-tos --email your-email-address -d mail.your-domain.com -w /var/www/html/

You will see the following text indicating that you have successfully obtained a TLS certificate. Your certificate and chain have been saved at /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/ directory.

Let's encrypt free tls certificate

Installing the Certificate

After obtaining the TLS certificate, let’s configure web server to use it. If you use Apache web server, then edit the default virtual host file.

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf

Add the following 3 lines above </VirtualHost>.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{SERVER_NAME} =mail.your-domain.com
RewriteRule ^ https://%{SERVER_NAME}%{REQUEST_URI} [END,QSA,R=permanent]

The above 3 directives will redirect HTTP connection to HTTPS. The rewrite module needs to be enabled for them to work, which is achieved by executing the following command.

sudo a2enmod rewrite

Then edit the https version of the default virtual host.

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/default-ssl.conf

Find the following 2 lines.

SSLCertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/iRedMail.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/ssl/private/iRedMail.key

We need to replace the self-signed certificate with Let’s Encrypt issued certificate. So the above two lines need to be changed to the following.

SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/fullchain.pem
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/privkey.pem

Save and close the file. Then reload Apache web server.

sudo systemctl reload apache2

Now if you visit iRedMail admin panel or Roundcube webmail again, you shall see a green lock in the browser address bar.

If you use Nginx, then edit the SSL template file.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/templates/ssl.tmpl

Find the following 2 lines.

ssl_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/iRedMail.crt;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/ssl/private/iRedMail.key;

Replace them with:

ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/fullchain.pem;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/privkey.pem;

Save and close the file. Then test nginx configuration and reload.

sudo nginx -t

sudo systemctl reload nginx

Visit iRedMail admin panel or Roundcube webmail again, you shall see a green lock in the browser address bar.

We also need to configure Postfix and Dovecot to use the Let’s Encrypt issued certificate so that desktop mail client won’t display security warning.

Edit the main configuration file of Postfix.

sudo nano /etc/postfix/main.cf

Find the following 3 lines. (line 95, 96, 97).

smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/ssl/private/iRedMail.key
smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/ssl/certs/iRedMail.crt
smtpd_tls_CAfile = /etc/ssl/certs/iRedMail.crt

Replace them with:

smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/privkey.pem
smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/cert.pem
smtpd_tls_CAfile = /etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/chain.pem

Save and close the file. Then reload Postfix.

sudo postfix reload

Next, edit the main configuration file of Dovecot.

sudo nano /etc/dovecot/dovecot.conf

Fine the following 2 lines. (line 47, 48)

ssl_cert = </etc/ssl/certs/iRedMail.crt
ssl_key = </etc/ssl/private/iRedMail.key

Replace them with:

ssl_cert = </etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/fullchain.pem
ssl_key = </etc/letsencrypt/live/mail.your-domain.com/privkey.pem

Save and close the file. Then reload dovecot.

sudo dovecot reload

From now on, desktop mail users won’t see security warnings.

Auto Renew TLS Certificate

To auto renew certificate, simply open root user’s crontab file.

sudo crontab -e

Then add the following line at the bottom of the file.

@daily letsencrypt renew --quiet && postfix reload && dovecot reload && systemctl reload apache2

If you use Nginx, then replace systemctl reload apache2 with systemctl reload nginx. Reloading is necessary to make these programs pick up the new certificate and private key.

Creating PTR, SPF, DKIM Records

To prevent your emails from being flagged as spam, you should set PTR, SPF and DKIM records.

PTR record

A pointer record, or PTR record, maps an IP address to a FQDN. It’s the counterpart to the A record and is used for reverse DNS lookup. Reverse resolution of A record with PTR record can help with blocking spammers. Many MTAs accept email only if the server is really responsible for a certain domain.

To check the PTR record for an IP address:

dig -x <IP> +short

or

host <IP>

Because you get IP address from your hosting provider, not from your domain registrar, so you must set PTR record for your IP in the control panel of your hosting provider and its value should be your mail server’s hostname: mail.your-domain.com.

SPF Record

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record specifies which hosts or IP address are allowed to send emails on behalf of a domain. You should allow only your own email server or your ISP’s server to send emails for your domain.

In your DNS management interface, create a new TXT record like below.

TXT  @   v=spf1 mx ~all

create spf record in DNS

Explanation:

  • TXT indicates this is a TXT record.
  • Enter @ in the name field.
  • v=spf1 indicates this is a SPF record and the SPF record version is SPF1.
  • mx means all hosts listed in the MX records are allowed to send emails for your domain and all other hosts are disallowed.
  • ~all indicates that emails from your domain should only come from hosts specified in the SPF record. Emails that are from other hosts will be flagged as forged.

Note that some DNS managers require you to wrap the SPF record with quotes like below.

TXT  @   "v=spf1 mx ~all"

To check if your SPF record is propagated to the public Internet, you can use the dig utility on your Linux machine like below:

dig your-domain.com txt

The txt option tells dig that we only want to query TXT records.

DKIM Record

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) use a private key to add a signature to emails sent from your domain. Receiving SMTP server verify the signature using the pubic key which is published in your DNS manager.

The iRedMail script automatically configured DKIM for your server. The only thing left to do is creating DKIM record in DNS manager. Open the iRedMail.tips file under iRedMail-0.9.7 directory.

sudo nano iRedMail.tips

Scroll down to DNS record for DKIM support section.

iredmail DKIM

Then in you DNS manager, create a TXT record, enter dkim._domainkey in the name field. Copy everything in the parentheses and paste into the value field. Delete all double quotes and white spaces.

iredmail dkim record

After creating PTR, SPF, DKIM record, go to https://www.mail-tester.com. You will see a unique email address. Send an email from your domain to this address and then check your score.

DMARC test

Adding Multiple Mail Domains

If you want to add another mail domain, then you need to

  • add a new mail domain and user in iRedMail admin panel.
  • create MX, SPF record for the new mail domain.
  • tell amavisd to sign email messages for the new domain.

The MX record should point to your mail server’s FQDN,

Record Type    Name      Value

MX             @         mail.your-domain.com

Then create SPF record to allow the MX host to send email for the new mail domain.

Record Type    Name      Value

TXT            @         v=spf1 mx ~all

Next you need to tell amavisd to sign every email message for the new mail domain. You can use the existing private key to sign for the new domain. Edit /etc/amavis/conf.d/50-user file.

sudo nano /etc/amavis/conf.d/50-user

Find the following lines in the file.

@dkim_signature_options_bysender_maps = ( {
    ...
    "your-domain.com"  => { d => "your-domain.com", a => 'rsa-sha256', ttl => 10*24*3600 },
    ...
});

Add the following line to tell amavisd to sign with the same private key.

"new_domain.com" => { d => "your-domain.com", a => 'rsa-sha256', ttl => 10*24*3600 },

So the configurations will be changed to the following.

@dkim_signature_options_bysender_maps = ( {
    ...
    "your-domain.com"  => { d => "your-domain.com", a => 'rsa-sha256', ttl => 10*24*3600 },
    "new_domain.com" => { d => "your-domain.com", a => 'rsa-sha256', ttl => 10*24*3600 },
    ...
});

Save and close the file. Then restart amavisd.

sudo systemctl restart amavis

Now you can use the new domain to send and receive emails. Don’t forget to test your score at https://www.mail-tester.com.

PTR record is used for mapping IP address to hostname, so you don’t need to worry about it when adding another mail domain.

That’s it!

I hope this tutorial helped you set up a mail server with iRedMail on Ubuntu 16.04. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get latest Linux tutorials. You can also follow us on Google+Twitter or like our Facebook page.

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