Test Center: E-mail security services square off
From spam-busting to content management, we test the limits of hosted e-mail security offerings from AppRiver, MessageLabs, Microsoft, MX Logic, SECNAP, and Trend MicroFollow @infoworld
E-mail is the primary conduit of information for many organizations, both internally and with the outside world. Unfortunately, e-mail is also a prime channel for annoyances such as spam, as well as security threats in the form of viruses, spyware, phishing attacks, and more. Some companies choose to defend their e-mail systems in-house by deploying e-mail security products. Others, however, look to outside assistance in the form of hosted e-mail security services.
As a follow-up to my review of nine e-mail security appliances, I looked at six hosted e-mail security solutions from AppRiver, MessageLabs (now owned by Symantec), Microsoft, MX Logic, SECNAP Network Security, and Trend Micro. Postini (now owned by Google), another major player in the hosted e-mail security space, declined to participate.
[ Compare these e-mail security services by features. Compare their spam filtering results. See the Test Center guide to e-mail security appliances including reviews of offerings from Barracuda, BorderWare, Cisco, Mirapoint, Proofpoint, Secure Computing, Sendio, Symantec, and Tumbleweed. ]
Before delving into the review itself, however, it's useful to understand just why an organization might want to hand over e-mail-security duties to a third-party provider. After all, many IT managers may be uncomfortable with having a critical application such as e-mail outside their control. However, hosted e-mail services hold several advantages over their in-house counterparts. There are drawbacks as well.
Appliance versus services
One advantage that a service holds over an in-house solution is that when you're using an outside provider, the volume of mail coming to your internal network is greatly diminished -- by 80 to 90 percent in most cases. Moreover, because you don't receive the unwanted mail at your location, you have no need to worry about archiving it. Such might not be the case if you're doing the filtering in-house.
A second advantage of a hosted service is that most providers have more robust networks than even large organizations, with multiple sites that have at least two separate Internet connections and multiple servers. Thus, going with an outside provider greatly decreases the chances that your e-mail service will be unavailable.
Third, hosted services offer a buffer for your e-mail system. If your internal e-mail server fails or if your Internet connection goes down, your mail will continue to accumulate on the hosted service's server until your in-house problem is resolved.
Yet another point for hosted services: They offer all features you'll find in appliances, such as content management, but they also boast services that don't come with an in-house box, including archiving, disaster recovery, and encryption. Bear in mind, however, that if you're going to implement certain features among internal users -- for example, to enforce policies on e-mail content between users in the same department -- you'll have to ensure that all messages are forwarded through the hosted service. This can be complex to set up and could increase delivery times.