I have been using the Internet as a source, but I am finding it very difficult with all the information out there to work out a plan to obtain the knowledge. Can you please advise me on what I should be reading/studing to get up to speed with setting up a mail server?
To begin with, you'll need to pick a server platform for which a mail server is required. For the Unix/Linux side of the world, that usually means sendmail or some variant. This is a formidable subject, and is best served by reading a book like the O'Reilly book by Bryan Costales, et al: Sendmail, 3e (ISBN: 1565928393), Craig Hunt's Linux Sendmail Administration (ISBN: 0782127371), or my personal favorite, the Vixie/Avolio book Sendmail: Theory & Practice (ISBN: 155558229X).
On the other hand, if your server preferences run in the Windows direction, that means Exchange 2000, which is also a formidable subject (but not quite so formidable as sendmail). Here, you'll find a whole raft of books on the subject matter at Amazon that get 5-star reviews, but where Jim McBee's books (Exchange Server 24x7) consistently garner top marks from those who work with Exchange daily. Try for example his Exchange Server 2000 24x7 (ISBN: 0782127975) to see what I mean.
I'd suggest looking around to see where job opportunities are best and let a combination of brute economics and your own technical interests guide you in one direction or another. It's too much work to try to learn both to start with, so you'll be better served by picking one, learning it and then going the other way later if circumstances indicate it's warranted.
This was first published in December 2003