Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hosted email security with GFI MailEssentials Complete Online


By Peter Adams

With spam volumes, phishing attacks, and malware on the rise, protecting users from these threats can become a full-time job all on its own. When looking at how much of a servers' CPU is being burned up in scanning attachments, the amount of disk space a quarantine database takes up, and the percentage of Internet bandwidth that is essentially wasted by junk, I searched for a better way to handle this.

It turns out GFI Software has a hosted spam filtering solution called GFI MailEssentials Complete Online which claims to provide the protection organizations need for their email infrastructure and users against the problems caused by spam, malware, and phishing attempts.

Here's a look at what I found out.

Easy setup

MailEssentials Complete Online offers system administrators an easy-to-use, affordable, and scalable solution that can be set up in minutes. There's no hardware to purchase, no operating systems to install, and no complicated applications to configure. It's a cloud based service, which means you don't have to worry about rack space, power, monitoring, or any of the other care and feeding that goes into any system you maintain on site. The service also handles all the tasks you would associate with a highly available service, so you don't have to worry about backups or data recovery.

I found GFI MailEssentials Complete Online simple to use, and was able to start using it almost immediately without any significant changes to our infrastructure. All you have to do is point your MX record to the service, point the service to your incoming mail server, and if you want to scan outbound messages as well, configure your mail server to relay through MailEssentials Complete Online. This setup is compatible with any SMTP system, which means it works just as well whether you use Exchange, Sendmail, Lotus Domino, or any other email suite.


Configuring GFI MailEssentials Complete Online is also fast and easy, and can be done through your Web browser. You have a very simple tabbed interface, shown in Figure A, that gives you all the options you need in a fast loading, easy-to-use interface that doesn't try to cram a thousand options in a single pane.


The configuration interface is clean and clear. (click for larger image)

User self-service

GFI MailEssentials Complete Online is not just a great solution for admins; users will find value in it, as well. It offers each user his or her own personal blacklist and whitelist which he or she can self-manage. It also provides access to individual quarantined spam, which can be reviewed using a browser. Users can check for blocked messages and release them on their own without having to open a help desk ticket. As an admin, that's a feature that I'm pretty happy about, as well.