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Frequently Asked (but Seldom Answered) Questions about PFA

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Randall S. Bohn

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Posted: 14 Dec 1999
 

Anytime you start using new technology like PFA, you're bound to have lots of questions. And who better to supply the answers than the very guy who created PFA? So here you go, straight from the horse's mouth. If you don't find the answer to your question here, send it to us and we'll seek Randy out and beg him for more.

General

Couldn't I just use a POP mail client instead of PFA?

Sure, the PFA is for users who want to use GroupWise. The PFA can save you money if you have multiple users because you only need one POP mailbox for your organization.

Is the PFA unique to Novell? What other solutions are there?

There are several other PFA-like solutions. The GroupWise Enhancement Pack for 5.5 adds the POP3 protocol to the GroupWise client. You can use this to replace the PFA, but you will need one POP mailbox for each user.


Connectivity

Can I use the PFA over a DSL connection or is it just for dial-up?

You can use the PFA with DSL or any other permanent Internet connection. As long as you can PING your ISP you can use the PFA.

Will the PFA work with IMAP mailboxes? What versions of POP are supported with PFA?

The PFA only supports POP version 3. It does not support POP2 or IMAP.

Can the PFA support dial-back processes?

No, the PFA does not manage the Internet connection.

How does the PFA relate to NAT?

The PFA uses whatever Internect connectivity you have enabled. The PFA does require NAT, just as any other Internet service running on your server would. Without NAT your ISP would be unable to communicate with your server.


Internet

Do I need a domain?

Mail will be addressed to X@yourdomain.com. You either need a domain name or a sub-domain name. You could be X@company.isp.com (this could be less expensive, but it is less professional looking as well.)

What does the address look like to the outside world? How do you address mail to and from users on a system using PFA?

Your address looks like any regular Internet e-mail address.

How does the PFA know to distribute mail to different users when it all comes to one user?

Mail sent to X@company.com is placed by the ISP into the domain POP mailbox (company@isp.com). The PFA downloads the mail and forwards it to GWIA. GWIA resolves the user name and delivers the mail to X's mailbox. Outbound e-mail is addressed as expected and sent via GWIA. PFA does not handle outbound mail.

How does the PFA handle personal POP accounts?

Personal mail is downloaded from your personal POP mailbox and forwarded directly to your GroupWise mailbox. The item is still addressed to your POP mailbox, with your GroupWise account as a BCC recipient. This is how you can tell your accounts apart. You might set up a rule in the client to move mail addressed to your POP mailbox to a 'Personal Mail' folder.

What happens to mail addressed to the domain mailbox?

The domain mailbox has a valid e-mail address, 'company@isp.com'. Some ISP's send mail to all accounts. Items directed to the domain mailbox will be forwarded by PFA to the local 'Postmaster'. This is the 'Admin' account by default. You can change the Postmaster account for GWIA using NWAdmin.

What happens to mail that has no corresponding GroupWise account?

The PFA extracts all local mail addresses from the messages 'TO' and 'CC' fields. It passes this list to GWIA. GWIA then determines which addresses are valid. If there is no corresponding GroupWise account GWIA's default action is to return an error message to the sender.

Why do some items end up addressed to 'Postmaster'?

If the PFA cannot find any local addresses in an item it will forward the message to the local 'Postmaster'. This will include any mail addressed directly to the domain mailbox at the ISP, or messages with local 'BCC' recipients. Many mailing lists are addressed 'TO' the list name, with individual recipients in 'BCC'. If users want to subscribe to mailing lists they should use a personal mailbox. If they must use their domain account you could set up a rule in the 'Postmaster' (= 'Admin') mailbox to forward items to the correct recipients.

Does the PFA read CC and BCC fields?

The PFA does examine the 'CC' field. The BCC is not available when the message reaches the PFA.

Does the PFA support aliases? Does the PFA support nicknames? How does the PFA parse mail addresses?

The PFA only looks at the domain part of the mail address. The domain must match the GWIA Foreign ID. If it matches the address is considered local. If it doesn't the address is considered non-local.

Can the PFA forward mail to the Internet?

No, the PFA forwards all mail to your local GWIA. You could set up a mail rule in the GroupWise client to forward incoming mail to an external mailbox. The PFA can download mail from any POP3 server including GWIA. Be careful not to create mail loops.

When dialing ISP's, do the performance boosts from aggregating connections apply?

Yes, the PFA will benefit from aggregating connections.

Is there any way to have the PFA leave mail in my POP account?

The POP protocol doesn't provide a way for the PFA to determine if it has already downloaded an item. If you want to keep mail in your POP account you should consider using the GroupWise enhancement pack instead of the PFA for your personal POP mailbox.


GroupWise and NetWare

Do I need one POP mailbox for each GroupWise user? Do I need one ISP account for each GroupWise user?

You only need one POP mailbox for your domain. For our testing we set up a business account with a local ISP and purchased a second POP mailbox. We use the second mailbox for our domain mailbox. This allows us to use the first mailbox account to communicate with the ISP and the second exclusively for POP Forwarding.

How does the PFA compare with the GroupWise Internet Agent (GWIA) in standalone GroupWise?

Without the PFA you have to have a static IP address in order to receive e-mail. You configure the GWIA to connect to your ISP on a regular schedule, sending any outbound messages and requesting any inbound messages. Your ISP's mail server then resolves your IP address and sends mail to GWIA on a new session. With POP forwarding your ISP delivers your mail to a POP mailbox and the PFA downloads and forwards the mail. You do not need a static IP address to use the PFA. You do not need to setup 'Dial-up' on the GWIA when you use the PFA.

Is the PFA available to regular GroupWise 5.5 owners? What about other versions of GroupWise? Is the PFA available to standard NetWare 5 owners? Is NetWare 4 supported?

The PFA is available for download from the Novell Cool Solutions web site. Support is only provided for owners of Novell Small Business Suite 5. The PFA is not supported on NetWare 4 because the Java platform is not officially supported there.

When installing the PFA can I use the default SYSTEM NAME, DOMAIN NAME, and POST OFFICE?

You can use any names that make sense to you for your GroupWise system, domains and post offices.

Does the PFA require specific GroupWise settings?

You must set the Foreign ID for GWIA to your domain name. PFA does not support multiple 'internet' domains. You need not configure GWIA dial-up as PFA covers that functionality. You should enable the GWIA correlation database. This may eliminate some duplicate messages.

Does the PFA require specific NIAS (dial-up) settings?

In our testing we configured NIAS for dial-on-demand and set an inactivity timeout of 10 minutes. As long as the connection opens and you can PING your ISP the PFA should work.


Operation

Sometimes the PFA web interface is very slow. What causes this? How can the problem be resolved?

When the PFA log level is set to 'high' the PFA tries to resolve your IP address each time you use the web interface. If you add your client to the server's sys:/etc/hosts file it will help speed up the web interface. When the log level is lower than 'high' the PFA writes '****' to the log instead of the client name/IP address.

What does the 'Start Forward Scan' button on the web interface do?

When the local GWIA is down the PFA queues up incoming messages. When you restore the GWIA to service you should start a forward scan on the PFA. Use the button provided in the web interface to do this. You could also restart the PFA. When the PFA starts it checks for any queued messages that need to be forwarded to GWIA.

How can I shutdown the PFA?

To shutdown the PFA you should use the web interface, clicking on the 'Shutdown' button. If you need to shut down the PFA at the server you can close the PFA window in the GUI screen.

Miscellany

Does my O (organization) name have to be the same as my tree name?

You do not have to match your organization to your tree name. The early-access release of PFA did have this restriction. If you have the early-access release PFA you should download the latest version and use it instead.

How important is it to shutdown the PFA before downing the server?

If the PFA is responding to a web request when the server is downed the server may abend. This has been duplicated with JVM 1.1.5. Should your server go down while the PFA is downloading mail, items will be preserved either at the ISP or in the PFA queue.

How often does the PFA connect to the ISP outside of business hours?

The current schedule is on or off for a given hour. It connects as set (default 30 minutes) during business hours and not at all outside of business hours.

Does the PFA allow SPAM?

The PFA will not block SPAM.

Can my customer keep their personal e-mail (bob@aol.com) as well as a new business account (bob@novell.com) and receive this through the PFA to a single GroupWise mailbox?

Yes. You can forward your regular GroupWise mail plus one personal mailbox. If you need support for multiple personal mailboxes you should use the GroupWise enhancement pack.

Can the PFA get mail for more than one POP account?

One personal mailbox per user.

How does the PFA know how and where to send mail back through the POP account?

The PFA does not enable you to respond through your personal POP account. You will have to follow directions from your ISP to send mail from your personal POP mailbox.

Why doesn't GroupWise support a 'Reply-To' address?

Good question. If it did you could send mail from GroupWise and direct replies to your personal mailbox. Perhaps you could make an enhancement request?

Can I restrict Internet access to e-mail only?

With the PFA only the PFA user needs internet access. Your end users don't need any access to the Internet. Novell's BorderManager can be used to enforce almost any Internet access policies you can imagine.


How can I get my hands on PFA?

Here it is, just for you. Note: This is the PFA_G6 version, dated 2/22/2000.) Download PFA Standalone .
Important: Requires NetWare 5 with Support Pack 3a or NetWare 5.1.

Before you use it, be sure to read this article.

About the Author

Born in Utah and raised in Tennessee, Randall S. Bohn now makes his home in Orem, Utah with his wife and three kids. Randall writes code in EMACS and started using Java in 1997. He was the lead engineer on PFA. He likes to spend his time off in the mountains with his family.


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