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A Complete Setup Guide

Robin Raymond edited this page Feb 28, 2018 · 1 revision

Mail servers can be a tricky thing to set up. This guide is supposed to run you through the most important steps to achieve a 10/10 score on mail-tester.com.

What you need:

  • A server with a public IP (referred to as server-IP)
  • A Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) where your server is reachable, so that other servers can find yours. Common FQDN include mx.example.com (where example.com is a domain you own) or mail.example.com. The domain is referred to as server-domain (example.com in the above example) and the FQDN is referred to by server-FQDN (mx.example.com above).
  • A list of domains you want to your email server to serve. (Note that this does not have to include server-domain, but may of course). These will be referred to as domains. As an example, domains = [ example1.com, example2.com ].

A) Setup server

The following describes a server setup that is fairly complete. Even though there are more possible options (see default.nix), these should be the most common ones.

{ config, pkgs, ... }:
{
  imports = [
    (builtins.fetchTarball "https://github.com/r-raymond/nixos-mailserver/archive/v2.1.3.tar.gz")
  ];

  mailserver = {
    enable = true;
    fqdn = <server-FQDN>;
    domains = [ <domains> ];

    # A list of all login accounts. To create the password hashes, use
    # mkpasswd -m sha-512 "super secret password"
    loginAccounts = {
        "user1@example.com" = {
            hashedPassword = "$6$/z4n8AQl6K$kiOkBTWlZfBd7PvF5GsJ8PmPgdZsFGN1jPGZufxxr60PoR0oUsrvzm2oQiflyz5ir9fFJ.d/zKm/NgLXNUsNX/";

            aliases = [
                "postmaster@example.com"
                "postmaster@example2.com"
            ];

            # Make this user the catchAll address for domains example.com and
            # example2.com
            catchAll = [
                "example.com"
                "example2.com"
            ];
        };

        "user2@example.com" = { ... };
    };

    # Extra virtual aliases. These are email addresses that are forwarded to
    # loginAccounts addresses.
    extraVirtualAliases = {
        # address = forward address;
        "abuse@example.com" = "user1@example.com";
    };

    # Use Let's Encrypt certificates. Note that this needs to set up a stripped
    # down nginx and opens port 80.
    certificateScheme = 3;

    # Enable IMAP and POP3
    enableImap = true;
    enablePop3 = true;
    enableImapSsl = true;
    enablePop3Ssl = true;

    # Enable the ManageSieve protocol
    enableManageSieve = true;

    # whether to scan inbound emails for viruses (note that this requires at least
    # 1 Gb RAM for the server. Without virus scanning 256 MB RAM should be plenty)
    virusScanning = false;
  };
}

After a nixos-rebuild switch --upgrade your server should be good to go. If you want to use nixops to deploy the server, look in the subfolder nixops for some inspiration.

B) Setup everything else

Step 1: Set DNS entry for server

Add a DNS record to the domain server-domain with the following entries

Name (Subdomain) TTL Type Priority Value
server-FQDN 10800 A server-IP

This resolved DNS equries for server-FQDN to server-IP. You can test if your setting is correct by

ping <server-FQDN>
64 bytes from <server-FQDN> (<server-IP>): icmp_seq=1 ttl=46 time=21.3 ms
...

Note that it can take a while until a DNS entry is propagated.

Step 2: Set rDNS (reverse DNS) entry for server

Wherever you have rented your server, you should be able to set reverse DNS entries for the IP's you own. Add an entry resolving server-IP to server-FQDN

You can test if your setting is correct by

host <server-IP>
<server-IP>.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer <server-FQDN>.

Note that it can take a while until a DNS entry is propagated.

Step 3: Set MX Records

For every domain in domains do:

  • Add a MX record to the domain domain

    Name (Subdomain) TTL Type Priority Value
    domain MX 10 server-FQDN

You can test this via

dig -t MX <domain>

...
;; ANSWER SECTION:
<domain>    10800   IN  MX  10 <server-FQDN>
...

Note that it can take a while until a DNS entry is propagated.

Step 4: Set SPF Records

For every domain in domains do:

  • Add a SPF record to the domain domain

    Name (Subdomain) TTL Type Priority Value
    domain 10800 TXT v=spf1 ip4:<server-IP> -all

You can check this with dig -t TXT <domain> similar to the last section. Note that SPF records are set as TXT records since RFC1035.

Note that it can take a while until a DNS entry is propagated. If you want to use multiple servers for your email handling, don't forget to add all server IP's to this list.

Step 5: Set DKIM signature

In this section we assume that your dkimSelector is set to mail. If you have a different selector, replace all mail's below accordingly.

For every domain in domains do:

  • Go to your server and navigate to the dkim key directory (by default /var/dkim). There you will find a public key for any domain in the domain.txt file. It will look like

    mail._domainkey IN TXT "v=DKIM1; r=postmaster; g=*; k=rsa; p=<really-long-key>" ; ----- DKIM mail for domain.tld
    
  • Add a DKIM record to the domain domain

    Name (Subdomain) TTL Type Priority Value
    mail._domainkey.domain 10800 TXT v=DKIM1; p=<really-long-key>

You can check this with dig -t TXT mail._domainkey.<domain> similar to the last section.

Note that it can take a while until a DNS entry is propagated.

C) Test your Setup

Write an email to your aunt (who has been waiting for your reply far too long), and sign up for some of the finest newsletters the Internet has. Maybe you want to sign up for the SNM Announcement List?

Besides that, you can send an email to mail-tester.com and see how you score, and let mxtoolbox.com take a look at your setup, but if you followed the steps closely then everything should be awesome!

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