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Top 10 Email Server Software in 2024

Written by
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani
Cem Dilmegani

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

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Researched by
Sıla Ermut
Sıla Ermut
Sıla Ermut
Sıla Ermut is an industry analyst at AIMultiple focused on email marketing and sales videos. She previously worked as a recruiter in project management and consulting firms. Sıla holds a Master of Science degree in Social Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations.
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Top 10 Email Server Software in 2024Top 10 Email Server Software in 2024

AIMultiple team adheres to the ethical standards summarized in our research commitments.

Email servers are critical components in the infrastructure of modern communication by providing the foundation for email delivery and management across the globe. There are various mail server software specifically designed for diverse needs of the customers.

If you are looking for:

  • A solution for sending outbound transactional emails (e.g. for marketing or customer service), which are automated and system-generated emails triggered by user actions, check out transactional email providers,
  • Email server for businesses and organizations to manage high volume email communications while offering more control, security, and customization, then check out email software.

Comparison of top 5 transactional mail providers

VendorNumber of reviewsAverage ratingStarting price
Netcore Email API4924.4$349/month
Twilio SendGrid3294.0$15/month
Amazon Simple Email Service1654.3$0.10 per 1,000 email + additional chargers

Sorting: Sponsors are listed at the top with their links. The rest are sorted based on the number of B2B user reviews from G2 and Capterra. Pricing information and features are gathered from the vendor websites. 

To compare pricing plans of transactional email services, check out transactional email pricing.

Dive in for more information on best practices, advantages & challenges of transactional emails.

Vendor Selection Criteria: We included vendors with at least 20 reviews obtained from B2B review platforms Capterra and G2.

Differentiating features of transactional email providers

VendorDifferentiating features

SMTP reputation defender by analyzing Big Data query to prevent blacklisting.
API mapping and migration templates.

Netcore Email APIInbox management with send time optimization.
Real time reporting for bounced emails and unsubscriptions, advanced email testing for deliverability.
Twilio SendGridSupports SMS, voice, and video communication.
Amazon Simple Email ServiceIntegration with Amazon Web Services tools.
Pay-as-you-go pricing model.

Comparison of top 5 email software

Vendor*Number of reviewsAverage ratingStarting price
Google Workspace Gmail12,1874.8$6/user/month
Zoho Mail1,3994.5$1/user/month
MDaemon Email Server1694.7
$25/month for 5 user for cloud-based - $413/year for on premises
Zimbra Collaboration1343.6Not publicly available
Microsoft Exchange Server & Microsoft 365**1334.3
$6/user/month for businesses - $10/month for 2-6 people for family plan

*These providers focus on email hosting and collaboration rather than directly offering transactional email services. For transactional emails, integrations with additional platforms or services are necessary.

** The data shows total average rating and number of reviews of Microsoft 365.

Sorting in the above table: The table is sorted based on the number of B2B user reviews from G2 and Capterra. Pricing information, deployment and features are gathered from the vendor websites. 

Vendor Selection Criteria

We narrowed down our selection based on these criteria:

  1. Number of reviews: We prioritized vendors with at least 100 reviews from public and verifiable B2B review platforms as the higher number of B2B reviews refers to strong presence in the email server market.
  2. Server protocols: We included software supporting a hybrid server protocol with both outgoing and incoming server capabilities. 

Deployment, focus and differentiating features of email software

VendorDeployment typeFocusDifferentiating features
Google Workspace GmailCloudCloud-native businessesAI-powered Smart Compose and Smart Reply features.
Zoho MailCloudEnterprises & mid-marketZoho Streams for commenting on emails.
MDaemon Email ServerCloud & on-premisesMid-marketPasswordless authentication to minimize security issues.
Zimbra CollaborationCloud & on-premisesEnterprisesOnline editor for text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
Microsoft Exchange Server & Microsoft 365Cloud & on-premisesEnterprisesMicrosoft Outlook integration.

What is an email server?

An email server is a computer system that sends, receives, and stores emails for its users. It acts as a central hub in the email delivery process while enabling communication over the internet or within a private network.

Some of the key features of an email server include:

Mailbox management: It stores and manages email accounts and their associated mailboxes to ensure that emails are correctly sorted and available to the users.

Protocol support: An email server supports 3 email protocols: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) for sending emails, and Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) or Post Office Protocol (POP) for receiving emails. SMTP handles the sending and forwarding of emails, while IMAP and POP manage the retrieval of emails by the end users.

Security measures: Email servers implement various security features to protect against unauthorized access, spam, phishing attacks, and malware. This includes TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer) encryption for secure email transmission and authentication mechanisms like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) for authenticity verification of email messages.

Spam filtering: Email servers enable advanced spam filtering techniques which are used to identify and block unwanted emails while helping to keep users’ inboxes free of potentially harmful content.

Data backup and recovery: Email servers regularly backup data to prevent loss due to hardware failures, software issues, or other disasters. They also provide recovery options to restore lost or accidentally deleted emails. Cloud based mail servers store user data in their cloud system.

Address resolution and routing: Email servers resolve recipient email addresses to their corresponding mail servers using DNS (Domain Name System) lookups and route emails to their destinations efficiently.

User authentication and access control: They ensure that email accounts are protected from unauthorized use by authenticating users before allowing access to send or retrieve emails.

Scalability: Email servers are designed to handle small volumes of email traffic in a private organization to large-scale operations for email service providers. These services also support eCommerce, tech start-ups, publishers, media, travel and financial services.

Integration with other services: Many email servers integrate with other services like calendars, contact lists, and task management to provide a unified communication platform.

Customizability and configuration: These solutions offer diverse configuration options to meet specific needs, such as setting up mail forwarding, auto-responders, and filters for organizing incoming emails.

Typically bundled products include video meetings and instant messaging.

Email server deployment: cloud vs on-premises

When choosing the right solution, it is vital to understand whether cloud-based or on-premises services suit your needs and expectations better.

Cloud-based email servers provide a hosted solution that minimizes the need for internal IT management and infrastructure, offering scalability, ease of access, and a subscription-based cost model that is suitable for businesses seeking flexibility and minimal upfront investment.

On the other hand, on-premises email servers offer organizations full control over their email infrastructure, data, and compliance, with a higher initial investment in hardware and ongoing management responsibilities than cloud-based services.

Cloud-based solutions have the advantage in accessibility and ease of scaling, but on-premises setups provide more control and customization.

Email server processes

Image describing email server workflow

The email servers work by managing the sending, receiving, and storing processes of email messages over the internet. These processes involve multiple steps and components, such as Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs), Mail Delivery Agents (MDAs), and Mail User Agents (MUAs).

Creating and sending emails

  • Composing an email: The process begins with a user creating an email using the email client (MUA), such as Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Mail, Apple Mail, or a web-based service like Gmail.
  • Client connecting to SMTP Server: The email client connects to the outgoing mail server using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) which is responsible for sending emails.

Email routing

  • Email processing with SMTP Server: The SMTP server checks the email’s recipient address to determine where the email needs to be sent.
  • DNS query for recipient’s server: The SMTP server queries a DNS server to find the Mail Exchange (MX) records for the recipient’s domain. The process enables the SMTP server to identify which incoming mail server that the email will be sent to.
  • Sending to recipient’s SMTP server: The sender’s SMTP server connects to the recipient’s SMTP server and transmits the email. If the recipient’s server is unavailable, the sender’s server will queue the email and try again later.

Receiving emails

  • Recipient’s SMTP server receives email: Once the email reaches the recipient’s SMTP server, it’s handed off to a Mail Delivery Agent (MDA). The MDA is responsible for depositing the email into the appropriate mailbox on the server.
  • Email storage: The email remains stored on the recipient’s email server until the recipient’s email client requests it.

Accessing emails

Lastly, the email client connects to the incoming mail server using: 

  • the Post Office Protocol (POP3) or 
  • the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP). 

Then, the email client retrieves the email from the server thus allowing the recipient to read it.

Categories of email server solutions

Email servers can be categorized as outgoing (SMTP servers), incoming (IMAP/POP servers) or hybrid servers supporting all three protocols.

Email software 

Email software utilizes hybrid servers with sending, receiving, and storing capabilities for managing large volumes of email communications. These solutions can be open source, cloud-based or on-premise.

With its integration capacities for both web and mobile devices such as shared calendars, task management, contact management, and document sharing, email software can boost teamwork and support project management processes.

Most email software enables offline mode for users to read and respond to emails without an internet connection.

Transactional email providers

On the other hand, transactional email providers integrate SMTP servers to allow system-generated emails that are sent to individuals based on specific actions or events. These emails provide one-to-one communications that contain information relevant to the recipient’s action or transaction with a website, application, or service. 

Key features include:

Trigger-based: Transactional email providers enable automated responses triggered by a user’s action. These automated emails include order confirmations; account notifications for delivery rates, clicks, bounces, and spam complaints, password resets, account activation links, and privacy updates; shipping confirmations and updates; payment invoices and purchase receipts; and Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) codes.

Personalized emails with high open rates: Transactional emails are personalized for each customer and essential for providing timely and relevant information to users, while supporting customer experience, and increasing trust between the customer and the business. These emails are often expected by recipients, which makes them engaging with high open and click-through rates. 

Integration: Transactional email services also enable RESTful API integration for supporting the automated email sending processes. 

Reporting and analytics: These services provide detailed report generation by analyzing email statistics for performance tracking including open and click-through rates.

SMTP relay services: Transactional email providers enable SMTP relay services. SMTP relay is an essential process in email communication where emails are transferred from one server to another until they reach the recipient’s email server. 

  • This process begins when an email is sent and the sender’s SMTP server takes over, performing a DNS lookup to find the recipient’s server based on the domain in the email address. 
  • The email is then relayed across the internet, passing through multiple servers, and it arrives at the destination server and to the recipient’s inbox. 
  • SMTP relay services are important because they enable seamless delivery of emails across different email systems and networks while ensuring that messages can be sent and received between any email providers.

Dedicated IP addresses: For businesses with high volume sending needs, these services provide dedicated IP addresses to ensure deliverability and avoid the potential issues of shared IP addresses.

IP warm-up: The aim of this service is to increase email sending reputation by boosting the volume of emails sent from a new IP address.

Further reading:

Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem is the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per Similarweb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work focuses on how enterprises can leverage new technologies in AI, automation, cybersecurity(including network security, application security), data collection including web data collection and process intelligence.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Cem's hands-on enterprise software experience contributes to the insights that he generates. He oversees AIMultiple benchmarks in dynamic application security testing (DAST), data loss prevention (DLP), email marketing and web data collection. Other AIMultiple industry analysts and tech team support Cem in designing, running and evaluating benchmarks.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised enterprises on their technology decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

Sources: Traffic Analytics, Ranking & Audience, Similarweb.
Why Microsoft, IBM, and Google Are Ramping up Efforts on AI Ethics, Business Insider.
Microsoft invests $1 billion in OpenAI to pursue artificial intelligence that’s smarter than we are, Washington Post.
Data management barriers to AI success, Deloitte.
Empowering AI Leadership: AI C-Suite Toolkit, World Economic Forum.
Science, Research and Innovation Performance of the EU, European Commission.
Public-sector digitization: The trillion-dollar challenge, McKinsey & Company.
Hypatos gets $11.8M for a deep learning approach to document processing, TechCrunch.
We got an exclusive look at the pitch deck AI startup Hypatos used to raise $11 million, Business Insider.

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