Open source mail archiving software compared

Locked Away

Core Feature

Searching is the application's core feature. Benno creates a full-text index of messages and attachments. The program relies on the Lucene and Tika search engines for searching so that attachments in various formats – from PDF, MS Office, OpenOffice/LibreOffice to ZIP archives – can be searched quickly. Plugins also provide an option for provisioning content. Benno shows users and auditors a neat web interface that supports convenient email searches, including the option to download or forward (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The Benno Web GUI offers quick searching and supports auditing.

User authorization management for the web GUI relies on a local (integrated) database or, alternatively, on Microsoft Active Directory via a matching connector or LDAP server.

Installation from Distribution Packages

Installing Benno is very easy, given that the system does not pose any major technical requirements: A Java JDK 6 runtime must be in place for the archiving back end. To run the Benno MailArchiv front ends, you need PHP5, Smarty templates, and an Apache2 web server.

You can download the required packages from the Benno repository. For Ubuntu, Debian, or UCS, just add the package source and GPG key in your package manager and run the following commands:

apt-get update
apt-get install benno-lib benno-core \
  benno-archive benno-rest-lib benno-rest
apt-get install apache2 php5 php-pear \
  php-db smarty
apt-get install benno-web

Before launching the Benno services, you first need to add a shared secret to the /etc/benno/benno.xml and /etc/benno-web/benno.conf files. This is used to safeguard server communication between Benno Core and the REST API.

Then, copy the license file to /etc/benno/benno.lic and restart the Benno REST service by typing /etc/init.d/benno-rest restart. If you want to set up the free open source edition, you need to create an empty benno.lic file and set the USERPERMISSONS = DISABLED parameter in the /etc/benno-web/benno.conf file. Access to the web interface is via the URL http://bennoserver/benno using the admin /secret account password combination. You can then create users with the benno-useradmin command-line tool, if you are not using a centralized directory service.


Benno is a complete system based on open software in combination with optional vendor support (Table 3). Additionally, a hosting edition is available that targets service providers and offers a flexible billing model. Smart administrators will not want to do without the management GUI. The lack of encryption makes it more difficult to comply with requirements, however.

Table 3

Benno MailArchiv

Manufacturer LWsystems GmbH & Co. KG (
Price Free as Open Benno, as a Small Business Edition (SBE) with up to 20 mailboxes, as a Standard Edition (SE) for 20 mailboxes, and a Hosting Edition (HE). SBE with five mailboxes for EUR80 per year. SE for a price of EUR12.50 per mailbox and year. Volume discounts are available.
Technical data
Evaluation (max. 10 points)
Installation overhead 7
Feature scope 7
User friendliness 5
Integration options 8
Documentation 6
Overall score 6.6

To make up for this, Benno offers interfaces for provisioning, user management, and web services that give administrators the ability to integrate the application seamlessly. The community edition may fit the bill for many uses; however, it does not meet all the legal requirements.

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