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Replicating IMAPs (dovecot) mails folders and sharing (through ownCloud) contacts (kmail, roundcube, etc)

February 10, 2014

dual IMAPs servers:

Having your own server handling your mails is enabling -you can implement anti-spam policies harsh enough to be incredibly effective, place catch-alls temporary addresses, etc. It does not even require much maintainance these days, it just takes a little time to set it up.

One drawback, though, is the fact if your host is down, or simply its link, then you are virtually unreachable. So you want a backup server. The straightforward solution is to have a backup that will simply forward everything to the main server as soon as possible. But having a backup server that is a replica of the main server allows you to use one or the other indifferently, and definitely have always one up at hand.

In my case, I run exim along with dovecot.  So once exim setup is replicated,  it’s only a matter of making sure to have proper dovecot setup (in my case mail_location = maildir:~/.Maildir:LAYOUT=fs:INBOX=~/.Maildir/INBOX
and mail_privileged_group =   mail  set in /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-mail.conf along with ssl = required in /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf  – you obviously need to create a certificate for IMAPs, named as described in said 10-ssl.conf but that’s not the topic here, you can use only IMAP if you wish).

Then, for each user account (assuming we’re talking about a low number), it’s as simple as making sure SSH access with no passphrase can be achieved from one of the hosts to the other and adding a cronjob like:

*/2 * * * *     user   dsync mirror secondary.domain.net 2> /dev/null

The first run may be a bit slow but it goes very fast afterward (I do have a strict expire policy though, it probably helps). This is done the the primitive  way, recent version of dovecot (ie: not yet in Debian stable) provides plugins to do it.

You may as well install unison on both server and synchronize things like ~/.procmailrc, /etc/aliases or whatever, for instance:

8 */2 * * *	user	unison -batch -auto -silent -log=false ~/.procmailrc ssh://secondary.domain.net//home/user/.procmailrc 2> /dev/null

Once you checked that you can properly login on both IMAPs, it’s just a matter of configuring your mail clients.

and many mail clients:

I use roundcube webmail whenever I have no access to a decent system with a proper mail client (kmail, gnus, etc) configured. With two IMAPs servers, there’s no benefit of not having the same webmail setup on both.

The only annoying thing is not to have common address book. It’s possible to replicate the roundcube database but it’s even better to have a cloud to share the address book with any client, not doing some rouncube-specific crap. So I went for the option of installing ownCloud on one of the hosts (so far I’ve not decided yet if there is a point in replicating also the cloud, seems a bit overkill to replicate data that is already some sort of backup or replica), pretty straight-forward since I already have nginx and php-fcgi running. And then if was just a matter of pluging roundcube in ownCloud through CardDav.

Once done, you may just want to also plug your ownCloud calendar/addressbook in KDE etc, so all your mail clients will share the same address book (yeah!). Completely unrelated, add mozilla_sync to your ownCloud is worth it too.

The only thing so far that miss is the replication of your own identities – I haven’t found anything clear about that but havent looked into it seriously. I guess it’s possible to put ~/.kde/share/config/emailidentities on the cloud or use it to extract identities vcard but I’m not sure a dirty hack is worth it. It’s a pity that identities are not part of the addressbook.

(The alternative I was contemplating before was to use kolab; I needed ownCloud for other matters so I went for this option but I keep kolab in mind nonetheless)

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