Companies of all sizes face a big battle when trying to clean e-mail systems of unsolicited e-mail, viruses, and inappropriate content. To combat this, GFI Fax & Voice offers its e-mail management and security package, Mail Essentials, Version 2.0. Mail Essentials is a useful tool that helps companies ensure appropriate communications over the Internet, preserving a positive corporate image while protecting internal systems from e-mail viruses. Its usefulness is restricted, however, by the fact that it monitors only incoming messages.
Mail Essentials, originally released as POP2-Exchange earlier this year, adds many e-mail security features such as content monitoring, virus scanning, and anti-spam filtering to its POP3 downloading capabilities. The product, which has been available since June, works with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, Novell GroupWise, and SMTP e-mail servers.
Priced at $2660 for unlimited users, this solution is more afford- able than competitors' products, such as Integralis' Mimesweeper of Worldtalk's WorldSecure, all of which charge the same or more for only 25 users.
I tested Mail Essentials both on a Microsoft Exchange Server and as an SMTP mail server retrieving POP3 mail. In both instances the installation went quickly and smoothly; I was up and running within 20 minutes. However, I ran into bugs when trying to run Mail Essentials on Windows 95 and Windows 98 machines, platforms the vendor claimed were compatible with Mail Essentials. Company officials currently are working on this issue and will have an update posted on the company's Web site as soon as it is resolved.
Administrators will find this product easy to configure and use. Most Mail Essentials features performed as expected; its tabbed interface lets administrators add options, such as disclaimers, to outgoing e-mail so a corporate message is attached to every outgoing message. In addition, autoreplies can be configured so that when receiving specific incoming mail, information can be pushed back out. For example, if the words "Marketing Campaign" appear in the subject line, a marketing brochure can then be automatically sent to the sender. This is a great way to automate marketing campaigns or product releases.
Another feature, content checking, works to keep confidential information from getting lost and detects whether files of an inappropriate nature are being passed or received. Using content checking, administrators can define keywords and phrases, block Pretty Good Privacy messages, and filter out potential spam mail. Unlike Message Inspector, Mail Essentials does not employ a sophisticated language pattern analysis, nor does it provide preset spam protection. Mail Essentials also provides the ability to block e-mail that does not contain a valid "from" address, and it conducts look-ups on the Realtime Black List, a list of known spammers.
Mail Essentials helps companies reduce bandwidth by allowing the compression of attachments into .zip files. This can reduce files sizes by 10 times, which can help companies significantly reduce traffic congestion. I especially liked that compressed files could be set for automatic decompression on the recipient side.
With Norton Anti-Virus installed on the Mail Essentials server, virus checks were performed on all incoming and outgoing e-mail messages and attachments. This is an essential feature - these days virus attacks run rampant in many companies. Mail Essentials also runs with many other antivirus products, such as McAfee, and needs to be installed only on the Mail Essentials machine.
Nevertheless, there are a few drawbacks to using Mail Essentials. During my tests, I was unable to view any logs of what messages had been scanned, as is shown in the Norton Activity log. According to company officials, a patch will be available at the GFA Fax & Voice Web site. Also, the program monitors mail sent only over the Internet; it does not monitor mail sent or received internally. E-mail policies are established to protect the company from legal ramifications and the employee from offensive behaviour, but because Mail Essentials handles only external mail, it really addresses only half of the issue.
In addition, Mail Essentials lacked the capability to restrict time limits on when users could send and receive mail.
As with all e-mail monitoring tools, administrators must monitor messages that have been placed in quarantine. For instance, all messages that include offensive words will be placed in question. Administrators can use the Moderator Client to view, reject, and approve messages in quarantine. Depending on the amount of e-mail your company receives and the restrictions defined in Mail Essentials, an administrator could be quite busy monitoring subject e-mail messages.
Mail Essentials has the potential to fit well into any size organisation to protect e-mail invasion, monitor content, and reduce bandwidth. Once complete, this product can provide a secure means for protecting and monitoring external e-mail.
However, you may want to consider using a separate solution for monitoring internal e-mail, unless the company incorporates this functionality into a future release of the product.
The bottom line ***
Mail Essentials, Version 2.0
Summary: This tool, which lets you monitor unsolicited e-mail and stops e-mail viruses from entering your system, works well for monitoring incoming messages. This version lacks capabilities for monitoring internal messages, and Windows 95 and Windows 98 compatibility was problematic during our tests.
Business Case: Because Mail Essentials helps you control e-mail downloads and security risks, your company can save time wasted cleaning up virus attacks, ease the risk of doing business over the Internet, and reduce network congestion.
Pros: POP3 downloading; Content filtering; Virus scanning of e-mail and attachments; Compression of attachmentsCons: Bugs found in Windows 95 and Windows 98; No preset anti-spam filters; Incomplete version releasePlatforms: Windows NT 4.0 Workstation and Server, Windows 95, and Windows 98. E-mail servers: Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, Novell GroupWise, SMTP e-mail servers.
Cost: $405 for 10 users
GFI Fax & Voice
(08) 8351 9780