Editor's Choice: Exchange Anti-Virus

<b>Winner: </b>GFI Ltd. MailEssentials for Exchange/SMTP 7<br> <br> <b>Honorable Mention:</b> <a href="#mcafee">Network Associates McAfee GroupShield</a>

MailEssentials for Exchange/SMTP 7 From $225 for 10 mailboxes to $895 for unlimited mailboxes  GFI Software USA; 919-388-3373;

When I first opened the package with MailEssentials for Exchange/SMTP 7, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Based on evaluation of a predecessor, I knew GFI had crafted an excellent product. Sometimes, though, the newer version isn’t as elegant as the previous and makes you long for the good-old days. Hence it was with a considerable sense of trepidation that I slid the CD from GFI into the tray and let the product unfold.

MailEssentials acts like an e-mail firewall. Key features include anti-spam, e-mail encryption, e-mail archiving, disclaimers, personalized auto-responders and POP3 downloading. All of this is transparent to the user, requires no training for users and little, if any, additional administration beyond initial set-up. MailEssentials, when packaged with GFI MailSecurity, scans all inbound and outbound mail. Attachments with a high likelihood of carrying a virus, worm or other nasty tidbit (.exe, .vbs) can be quarantined and assessed.

When it comes to defeating spam, GFI MailEssentials takes a server-based, rather than client-based, approach. A server-based anti-spam product installs at the gateway and eliminates the deployment and administration hassle of desktop-based anti-spam products.

Spam is addressed at the server level by intercepting an incorrect “Reply To” address or a message header containing an incorrect domain. There are also the expected options of refusing mails from domains and deleting mails with certain strings in the body.

Content checking and anti-virus features are now found in the separate GFI MailSecurity for Exchange/ SMTP tool, an e-mail-content checking, exploit-detection, threats-analysis and anti-virus solution that removes all types of e-mail-borne threats before they can affect your users. MailSecurity is available in a bundle with MailEssentials or as a separate product. I view it as a subset of MailEssentials, which—while not totally correct—is more logical.

GFI Mail Security is available as an SMTP gateway version and for VS API. The gateway version scans inbound and outbound mail and should be deployed at the perimeter of the network as a mail-relay server. The VS API version integrates seamlessly with Exchange Server 2000 and scans the Exchange 2000 information stores.

I threw all of the test viruses I had on my test network against the product. And then I tossed in a few wild ones lying around in undeleted e-mail from my ISP. MailEssentials/MailSecurity grabbed them, quarantined them and sent messages to the administrator, sender and receiver (which I had configured it to do) that something was amiss. The messages were straightforward, and I think it ate the viruses as well, as I never figured out what it did with the scripts it banished.

MailEssentials does what it was designed to do—identify, hunt and kill anything that looks like a threat to e-mail security with the quiet relentlessness and thoroughness of a white blood cell gobbling an intruder in your bloodstream. And that’s why, a year later, it’s still my favorite.

Honorable Mention

McAfee GroupShield
From $212.50 licensing for five users to $8,022.50 for 250 users
Network Associates

But one can’t really address the area of anti-virus without mentioning McAfee and paying tribute to a product, in fact an entire line of products, that’s been providing consistent high quality for years.

McAfee’s GroupShield is exactly what you’d expect it to be—a solid, reliable product robust enough to assure that it won’t let you down as long as you remember to maintain it. If it’s lacking in other bells and whistles such as content-checking, anti-spamming and the like, it’s by design. This is an anti-virus defense product and that’s all it claims to be.

About the Author

David W. Tschanz, Ph.D., MCSE, is author of the recent "Exchange Server 2007 Infrastructure Design: A Service-Oriented Approach" (Wiley, 2008), as well as co-author of "Mastering Microsoft SQL Server 2005" (Sybex, 2006). Tschanz is a regular contributor to Redmond magazine and operates a small IT consulting firm specializing in business-oriented infrastructure development.

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