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
Additionally, images of photos or documents can be uploaded and used to create a signature to ensure that specific intellectual property is not sent or received without authorization. For example, if you have a confidential document titled ProprietaryInfo.doc, you can create a signature of that file that records not only the name by its length, content, and so on. MessageLabs will detect and stop any attempt to send that document to an outside recipient.
Although the MessageLabs service is relatively expensive, it also offers the most features and best performance among its rivals in this test. Now that the company is part of Symantec, which makes the Brightmail appliance, the consistent top performer in appliance tests over the past few years, maybe some of the irritating foibles will be fixed.
Microsoft Exchange Hosted Filtering Services
Formerly Frontbridge (long a leader in anti-spam services), Exchange Hosted Filtering Services (EHFS) is available in typical Microsoft fashion: The service offers great features, including anti-virus, using multiple engines, encryption, and disaster recovery. It's adept at stopping spam, preventing 97.5 percent of unwanted messages from coming through, while stumbling on 11 false positives and one critical false positive (see test results). Moreover, it's easy to set up, manage, and use -- especially with Windows-based e-mail systems. On the other hand, pricing is hard to nail down, though large customers get great price breaks. Also, as one might expect from Microsoft, using the service with the Firefox 3.0 browser did not work well, although Firefox 2.0 was OK.
Getting started with EHFS was quite easy: The process of setting up users can be automated so that administrator intervention is not required. Syncing with Active Directory was a snap -- and synchronization withversions of LDAP should work well too.
User log-in is straightforward. Passwords can be set to high security levels, requiring upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, as well as a minimum length. You can even require users to choose password that are in any dictionary.
Notifications sent to users regarding quarantined e-mails are easy to read. Moreover, the user portal is simple and direct, which should minimize user support requirements.
Admins will find (screenshot) the service's policy engine to be powerful and easy to use, offering a high level of granularity for both individual users and groups. Additionally, EHFS offers potent content-filtering features for enforcing HR policies and controlling the distribution of intellectual property. You can set the content filter to look for specific file names or document types. You can even scan attached documents for specific phrases. Admins can choose to have the service block a user's attempt to send a document containing restricted content; alternatively, an admin could have the system notify a designated auditor of such attempts.
The service's reporting and auditing features are both powerful and well thought out. Creating customized reports is a snap, so you needn't rely on pre-defined reports if they don't meet your requirements. Additional features such as encryption and disaster recovery are easy to use and well integrated.