Cloud-based SMTP

Create an SMTP Server

Aleksandra Duło, 15 February 2023

At this point, it is safe to say that most communication between individuals and organizations is done via email. With that, many companies resort to using third-party providers, and it’s easy to understand why. Using Google Workspace and your own domain can significantly improve your email deliverability rate.

Yet, there are still some companies and individuals who would like to have more control over their infrastructure, including their own email servers. The reasons why deserve a discussion of their own – this guide will focus primarily on creating email servers for your organization.

Below, you’ll find a concise guide on the basics of SMTP servers, along with a brief outline of the steps required to set up your own SMTP server. Read on and see how you can start sending messages from your email server in no time.

And if you feel you’re not up for the challenge, you can contact us – we’ll gladly take care of everything for you!

SMTP Server Basics

In short, an SMTP server (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is an email server that’s responsible for sending, receiving, and routing emails. The main difference between SMTP and cloud-based solutions lies in the way your email service handles messages.


SMTP is an email communication protocol that is used by mail servers to send emails from one account to another via the internet.

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With a standalone SMTP service, your emails travel from your relay host to the recipient’s mail server without any third-party involvement. This leaves you with a few options:

  • Self-host your own SMTP server – you can host your SMTP server on a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated server. This approach requires some technical expertise, as well as enough resources to support the increased traffic.
  • Use existing infrastructure – if you already have a website, for instance, you can use its web hosting account to set up and manage your emails. This is the most common and recommended approach for small businesses with little to no technical expertise.
  • Use a third-party SMTP provider like EmailLabs – this solution combines the best of both worlds by providing you with exchange servers that are easy to set up and manage without sacrificing any of the features or flexibility.


It should be noted that large email service provider or  mailbox provider, such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, filter the messages according to IP addresses and domains, which may affect your email deliverability, so it is a good idea to forward emails to an established SMTP relay server.


SMTP relay is the process of routing emails to the proper destination SMTP server.

On top of that, configuring your application to send emails using a smart host with a queueing mechanism can provide improved stability and increased bandwidth. If there is a connection loss or high load, for instance, the email transmission will gradually resume after the connection is re-established, preventing system overload.

Setting Up an SMTP Server

Setting up an SMTP server may sound like a daunting task, but if you have any experience with hosting a website, the process should be a breeze.

Assuming that you want to set up your own SMTP server from the ground up, you will need is a server with a domain connected to the internet, either a VPS or a dedicated server.

Once you have the basic infrastructure in place, you’ll need to install and configure appropriate software such as postfix for Linux or Microsoft’s IIS SMTP server for Windows.

Picking the Right Server

The first step is to choose the right platform. The two main options are Windows and Linux, and if you’re not familiar with either of these platforms, opting for Windows Server may be a better idea. The platform is designed for businesses of all sizes and comes with a user-friendly interface and a multitude of apps, all in one package.

On the other hand, Linux is a more versatile platform that can be used for a wide range of purposes, including SMTP servers. The main advantage of Linux is that it allows for virtually unlimited customization, which can be a blessing and a curse.

While you can tailor the server to your specific needs, the process can be complicated and time-consuming. Additionally, Linux servers may turn out to be more expensive than their Windows counterpart in the long run, as you may need to invest in additional software or support to get the most out of your server.

Setting Up the Server

Next up, you need to set up the SMTP service on your server. If you’re using Windows, the process is relatively straightforward – all you need to do is add the SMTP Server feature in Server Manager. More specifically, you need to:

  1. Enter the Add roles and features menu in the Server Manager app,
  2. Select Role-based or feature-based installation and follow the wizard choosing the server you want to install the SMTP Server on,
  3. In the list of available roles, check the SMTP server and Restart the destination server automatically if required,
  4. When completed, you can move to the SMTP server configuration.

Server Manager is a management console that helps IT professionals provision and manage both local and remote Windows-based servers.

On Linux, the process is a bit more complicated, as there’s no one-click installation wizard. The first step is to install Postfix, the most popular open-source SMTP server for Linux. The process varies depending on the distribution you’re using, but usually, you need to:

  1. Update your server to ensure you have the latest packages required for the installation,
  2. Install Postfix using the package manager included with your distribution,
  3. Configure Postfix to use the loopback interface,
  4. Start the server and add it to your firewall rules.

Configuring the SMTP Service

After the server is up and running, you need to configure the SMTP service to start sending emails. If you’re using Windows, all you need to do is open the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager console and enter the SMTP Virtual Server settings. There, you should set up the following:

  • Email relay host – typically, you enter localhost IP ( to route your emails through the local server. If you’re using a third-party SMTP relay, you’ll enter its IP address or domain name in the Smart Host section,
  • Outbound security – choose which authentication method you want to use. If your SMTP relay doesn’t require any authentication, select Anonymous Access; otherwise, you can use password-based authentication, integrated Windows authentication, or TLS encryption,
  • TCP port – enter the port that is open in your firewall; the default port for SMTP is 25, but you may want to set up another port for testing purposes.
  • Smart Host – used for external exchange and relay servers; depending on your network and internet service provider, you may need to provide a different IP address or domain name.

On Linux, the process is similar, but most of it happens in your text editor. Assuming you’re using Postfix mentioned earlier, you need to edit a few files in the /etc/postfix/ directory. Take a look at our For developers section for specific instructions.

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Testing Your Configuration

Once you have your server configured, it’s time to test your setup. The most common way to do that is by using Telnet to send a test email, which can be used on both Windows and Linux. The process is relatively simple – all you need to do is open the Telnet client and connect to your SMTP server.

Your typical telnet test should consist of four steps.

  1. Connecting to your SMTP server,
  2. Identifying yourself to your target server,
  3. Setting the sender and recipient email addresses,
  4. Entering the message you want to send and ending the session.

Assuming the configuration is set up correctly, you will receive a positive response from your server after sending the message. If there are any errors, you should troubleshoot your configuration and try again. If the session ends with a success message, you can now start sending emails from your own email server.

Maintaining Your Own SMTP Server

Unfortunately, there aren’t many things in the world of IT that are set-and-forget – and while it may seem so, your SMTP server isn’t one, either. Just like any other piece of software or hardware, your server will require regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly.

However, this isn’t to say that once you set up the SMTP service, you’ll have to dedicate a significant amount of time to managing the server. Conversely, if you follow the best practices and use a reliable server, the maintenance shouldn’t require more than an hour or two per week, often embedded in your overall server maintenance routine.

There are two main pain points when it comes to SMTP servers – security and performance. The first one is relatively easy to solve, and if you follow the proper security protocols, you should have no trouble keeping your server safe – again, your SMTP server is a part of your local network infrastructure, so the same rules apply.

As for performance, things are a bit more complicated. Although sending emails is effortless for modern computers, scaling an SMTP server to handle increased traffic is more complicated. For example, if you plan to send mass emails, you may need to schedule them accordingly or invest in additional hardware and software, such as a caching server or a content delivery network (CDN).

You can also use SMTP monitors that periodically test your server’s performance and identify potential issues. Common symptoms of a poorly configured server are high latency and delivery failures. If you experience either of these issues, you should investigate your SMTP settings and make the necessary changes.

To Sum Up

Setting up an SMTP server is no rocket science, and if you have some experience with web hosting, the process should be a breeze. All you need to do is pick the right platform for your needs, install the necessary software (Windows or Linux), configure your server accordingly, and test it before sending emails.

However, keep in mind that running an SMTP server requires regular maintenance – from setting up proper security protocols to optimizing performance. If done correctly, though, having your own email server can significantly improve the inner workings of your organization and help you stay in control of your infrastructure.

If you don’t feel confident – It’s better to leave it in the hands of professionals – so don’t hesitate and contact us. We will take care of everything.

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