Wednesday, 25 April 2012 12:04

A Review of Mail Essentials Complete Online

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GFI Software has a cloud-based solution for anti-spam, anti-malware, anti-phishing and more. It’s called GFI MailEssentials Complete Online (MEO) and it promises to save you money, give your business email continuity, and protect your mailboxes better than you can do it yourself. With the bar set so high, we wanted to give MEO a try to see if it lived up to the hype.

Getting started

MEO offers a free 30-day-trial, and implementing the service is incredibly easy, so the try before you buy approach works well here. MEO can filter both your inbound and your outbound mail, so there are two steps you need to take. Once you sign up for a trial, reconfigure your MX records to point to MEO, and configure your outbound mail to use MEO as a smart host. That’s it. With two simple configuration changes that won’t even interrupt message flow, you are up and running. That gets you complete mail hygiene, including anti-spam, anti-malware, and anti-phishing, on both your inbound and outbound messaging.  And it gives you built-in email continuity -- so that if your mail server is ever down, you can still continue to receive and send email.

Managing the service

If you want or need to do any customization, including setting up whitelists or blacklists, MEO is easy to work with.

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Application management is through a web browser. The portal is well laid out, with an intuitive tab-based approach that makes it very easy to learn your way around quickly and easily. The portal avoids the temptation to make things too flashy by avoiding Flash entirely, which makes it quick and responsive, and easy to use across practically any platform or browser. In addition to traditional whitelists and blacklists, you can configure how aggressive spam suppression is, and whether to block, quarantine, or reroute suspicious messages.

Outbound Filtering

There are several benefits to routing all your outbound mail through MEO. Your messages are scanned for malware and to make sure they don’t look like spam. In the event that spam is ever sent out from your network, as can easily happen if a user’s workstation gets infected with a worm or virus, MEO’s outbound filtering can prevent your domain or mail server from being blacklisted. You can also configure MCO to append outbound messages with a standard disclaimer or signature. This can be companywide, set per user, or group.

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At present, this is limited to plaintext, but you can always add your company logo in an Outlook signature if you need to. We noticed no delay at all when routing outbound mail through the service.

User self-service

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Here’s a feature your helpdesk is going to love, together with your users. Each user, once or more each day, can receive their own digest report on messages blocked by the service. Users can quickly scan this digest and can release any potentially legitimate message simply by clicking a link. Additionally, at any time, any user can log on to MEO’s web portal to check their own personal quarantine folder, which means no more tickets asking you to check the firewall to see if it blocked an email. Your users get immediate results, and your help desk can concentrate on more important things.

Email Continuity

MEO comes with a great feature called Email Continuity. Whether you have a circuit outage, your mailserver is down for patching, or there is a software or hardware problem with your mail server, as long as your users have Internet access they can log onto the MEO portal to view and respond to any queued messages. It’s a great way to keep critical communications going even when something is down, and doesn’t require you to invest in a DR site.

Archiving

If you are not yet archiving, it’s probably only a matter of time before you do. Compliance, legal requirements, and corporate security are all starting to look at archiving, and with all your email flowing through MEO, it’s a natural option that is offered with the product. Archiving is easy to set up, and is fully featured. You can set up one or more retention policies for your domain, to store messages for as short as three months or as long as 10 years. Messages are encrypted and then stored in multiple, geographically distributed datacenters, which means the data is secure even in the event of a natural disaster affecting one geographic location. Other features include delegated access control, automated tagging of messages, a simple but powerful search mechanism, and full support for journaling. And perhaps best of all, you can archive an unlimited quantity of messages, without having to purchase or maintain any additional hardware or software.

Conclusion

Overall, we found GFI MailEssentials Complete Online to be an effective and easy-to-use product. The idea of blocking spam before it even gets to our border is very appealing, and during our tests, we didn’t see a single spam message get through. With the added benefits of robust antivirus defense, email continuity, and optional integrated archive, it’s a great solution for protecting your users and their mailboxes.

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