Notes on hosting my own email server

  • MUA is an email client (Outlook or Thunderbird)
  • MTA transmits email between servers (applications like Exim, sendmail, Postfix, and qmail)
  • MDA gets messages from server into user's inbox using protocols like IMAP and POP(Dovecot)

Postfix and Dovecot

Postifx and Dovecot is a great combination. Previosuly, you could install both of them with mail-stack-delivery, but now it only installs dovecot-core and does no config as part of the install.


# install Postfix and Dovecot
# sudo apt install -y mail-stack-delivery
sudo apt install -y dovecot-core dovecot-imapd dovecot-pop3d

# Set options for Postfix for non-interactive install
debconf-set-selections <<< "postfix postfix/mailname string ${FQDN}"
debconf-set-selections <<< "postfix postfix/main_mailer_type string 'Internet Site'"
sudo apt install -y postfix

# reconfigure Postfix
# sudo dpkg-reconfigure postfix

You can get all Postfix configuration with

# sudo apt install debconf-utils
debconf-get-selections | grep postfix

Configure Postfix

Rather than editing the configuration file directly, you can use the postconf -e command to change the Postfix parameters.

sudo postconf -e 'home_mailbox = Maildir/'
sudo postconf -e 'mydomain = <>'

maps or hashes need to be created, these are just mroe flat files for configs..

  • /etc/mailname contains the hostname (
  • /etc/postfix/virtual maps email addresses to a username (pattern of <> <username>)
# Mail server identity options
sudo postconf -e 'mydomain = domain.tld'

sudo postconf -e 'myhostname = host.domain.tld'

# FQDN and some common alternate names
sudo postconf -e 'mydestination = $mydomain, $myhostname, localhost.$myhostname, , localhost'

# your local LAN network segment in CIDR notation
sudo postconf -e 'mynetworks = [::ffff:]/104 [::1]/128'
## Customized Dovecot and virtual user-specific settings
canonical_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/canonical
home_mailbox = Maildir/
message_size_limit = 104857600
virtual_alias_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/virtual
virtual_mailbox_domains = hash:/etc/postfix/virtual-mailbox-domains
virtual_mailbox_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/virtual-mailbox-users
virtual_transport = dovecot

## This setting will generate an error if you restart Postfix before
## adding the appropriate service definition in, so make
## sure to get that taken care of!
dovecot_destination_recipient_limit = 1

## Other customized mail server settings
default_destination_concurrency_limit = 5
disable_vrfy_command = yes
relay_destination_concurrency_limit = 1


sudo ufw allow Postfix

SSL configuration

## customized TLS parameters

# ask remote servers to identify themselves with a certificate.
smtpd_tls_ask_ccert = yes

smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/ssl/private/ssl-chain-mail-yourdomain.pem
smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/ssl/private/ssl-key-decrypted-mail-yourdomain.key

# smtpd_tls_CAfile is used by Postfix to validate remote servers' certificates.
# Ubuntu comes with a large Certificate Authority bundle file at /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
smtpd_tls_CAfile = /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
smtpd_tls_ciphers = high
smtpd_tls_loglevel = 1

# "May" tells Postfix that it should use SSL/TLS if the remote host supports it.
smtpd_tls_security_level = may
smtpd_tls_session_cache_timeout = 3600s

smtpd_tls_ask_ccert = yes should be set

# Email to send renewal and security notices to

# Domains to install cert on (comma separated list)

sudo apt install -y certbot

sudo certbot certonly --standalone --agree-tos --non-interactive --email ${EMAIL} --domains ${FQDNS}

Certs are saved in /etc/letsencrypt/live/


in /etc/dovecot/conf.d/10-ssl.conf add

ssl = required
ssl_cert = </etc/letsencrypt/live/
ssl_key = </etc/letsencrypt/live/
systemctl restart dovecot.service

read also

# Update /etc/postfix/
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_tls_cert_file = /etc/letsencrypt/live/<your.domain>/fullchain.pem'
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_tls_key_file = /etc/letsencrypt/live/<your.domain>/privkey.pem'
systemctl restart postfix.service

read also

Secure the SSL keys

chown root:root ssl-key-*
chmod 400 ssl-key-*

smtpd config

# don't reveal too much info about your system, just the minimum correct response required
smtpd_banner = $myhostname ESMTP

# remote servers must identify themselves before you'll accept e-mail commands from them - spammers often don't issue proper HELO responses.
smtpd_helo_required = yes

smtpd_helo_restrictions = permit_mynetworks,
    reject_non_fqdn_helo_hostname, reject_invalid_helo_hostname,
    reject_unknown_helo_hostname, permit
smtpd_recipient_restrictions = reject_unknown_client_hostname,
    reject_unknown_sender_domain, reject_unknown_recipient_domain,
    reject_unauth_pipelining, permit_mynetworks,
    permit_sasl_authenticated, reject_unauth_destination,
    reject_invalid_hostname, reject_non_fqdn_sender
smtpd_sender_restrictions = reject_unknown_sender_domain,
smtpd_sender_login_maps = $virtual_mailbox_maps

## Dealing with rejection: use permanent 550 errors to stop retries
# reject messages that match the our rejection criteria with a 550 error,
# which should tell the remote server that its message wasn't delivered and it shouldn't try to send it again
# (as opposed to the default 450 error, which implies that the remote server should retry sending.
unknown_address_reject_code = 550
unknown_hostname_reject_code = 550
unknown_client_reject_code = 550

Setting up SMTP authentication

  • smtpd is the SMTP daemon—the process that sends mail
# SASL is the protocol that Dovecot uses to authenticate itself to Postfix

# have Postfix advertise AUTH support (default: no)
sudo postconf -e 'broken_sasl_auth_clients = yes'

# Enable SASL authentication in the Postfix SMTP server. (default: no)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes'

# Report the SASL authenticated user name in the smtpd Received message header. (default: no)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_sasl_authenticated_header = yes'

# The name of the Postfix SMTP server's local SASL authentication realm. e.g. $mydomain or $myhostname (default: empty)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_sasl_local_domain = $myhostname'

# Implementation-specific information that the Postfix SMTP server passes through to the SASL plug-in implementation that is selected with smtpd_sasl_type. Typically this specifies the name of a configuration file or rendezvous point. (default: smtpd)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_sasl_path = private/auth'

# Restrict what authentication mechanisms the Postfix SMTP server will offer to the client. The list of available authentication mechanisms is dependent on smtpd_sasl_type. (default: noanonymous)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_sasl_security_options = noanonymous'

sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_sasl_type = dovecot'
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_recipient_restrictions = permit_sasl_authenticated,permit_mynetworks,reject_unauth_destination'
# TLS configuration
# configure Postfix to provide TLS encryption for both incoming and outgoing mail.

# Ask a remote SMTP client for a client certificate. (default: no)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_tls_ask_ccert = yes'

# may is for Opportunistic TLS: announce STARTTLS support to remote SMTP clients, but do not require that clients use TLS encryption.  (default: empty)
sudo postconf -e 'smtp_tls_security_level = may'
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_tls_security_level = may'

# 1 means Log only a summary message on TLS handshake completion  — no logging of client certificate trust-chain verification errors if client certificate verification is not required. (default: 0)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_tls_loglevel = 1'

# Log the hostname of a remote SMTP server that offers STARTTLS, when TLS is not already enabled for that server. (default: no)
sudo postconf -e 'smtp_tls_note_starttls_offer = yes'

# Request that the Postfix SMTP server produces Received: message headers that include information about the protocol and cipher used, as well as the remote SMTP client CommonName and client certificate issuer CommonName. This is disabled by default, as the information may be modified in transit through other mail servers. Only information that was recorded by the final destination can be trusted. (default: no)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_tls_received_header = yes'

# Enable only "HIGH" grade OpenSSL ciphers.  (default: medium)
sudo postconf -e 'smtpd_tls_ciphers = high'

Mapping email addresses to user accounts (virtual aliases)

sudo nano /etc/postfix/virtual root root info
# Postfix is final destination for the specified list of virtual alias domains, that is, domains for which all addresses are aliased to addresses in other local or remote domains.
# Example: virtual_alias_domains = virtual1.tld virtual2.tld
sudo postconf -e 'virtual_alias_domains = $mydomain'

sudo postconf -e 'virtual_alias_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/virtual'

sudo postmap /etc/postfix/virtual

sudo systemctl restart postfix


  • Allow only specified users to login via SSH
sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config
AllowUsers youraccount
sudo restart ssh

Config files

  • Postfix configuration /etc/postfix/

Hosting email for multiple domains

External DNS for      7200 MX 10 3600 A  213.xx.xx.xx

External DNS for      7200 MX 10 3600 A  213.xx.xx.xx


You ARE NOT emailing Yahoo and AOL and sometimes Time Warner, Google, Microsoft, Comcast and a few other carriers without adding setting up RDNS (PTR) records to this list.

Then add SPF records into the mix. This won't help with the first two places without RDNS but they really improve your reputation.


Please note that this site and the posts on it are, and will always be, a work in progress. If i waited for perfection, i’d never get anything done.