Test Driving GFI MailEssentials Complete Online
GFI recently announced a new cloud-based mail filtering solution called GFI MailEssentials Complete Online, and we were given the opportunity to take it for a test drive. Being no fan of spam, and big fans of cloud based solutions, we were very excited to see what fighting spam in the cloud would do for us. Here’s a quick rundown of our experiences with GFI MailEssentials Complete Online when we "took it for a spin".
GFI makes trialling MailEssentials Complete Online (MCO) incredibly easy. You don’t even need a credit card. Sign on to the site at http://mco-signup.gfi.com/en/mp/, fill out the form, and receive an email with your User ID and password. Credit card not required. Enter your domain details, create or import your users, update your MX record with the information provided, and you are good to go. In the time it takes for your TTL to expire, MCO will be filtering your inbound email for spam, malware and phishing attacks.
You can create your users by hand, import them from a file, or even sync MCO to your Active Directory or other LDAP store, enabling you to provision your users automatically. With no other settings at all, you are now protected.
You really ought to also use MCO to filter your outbound email as well. This will protect your domain’s reputation and help improve deliverability of your outbound mail if your IP addresses have been blacklisted. To enable the outbound service, simply configure your mail server to use the MCO servers as a smart relay. There’s no software to install, and it takes effect immediately.
GFI MailEssentials Administration
Speaking of no software to install, your administrative interface is a web browser. There’s no Flash, no need to install a plug-in, nor any of the other things that make web browser-based administration so painful on other systems. We tried with several different browsers and on screens from a 42" behemoth to an 8.9" netbook, and could easily manage all of the functions. We couldn’t get our iPhone to log on, but that might have been more of a problem with our password-challenged thumbs than anything else, and we don’t anticipate getting after hour calls for spam in any event.
The admin web pages are well laid out, with easy links to major areas and the common tabs along the top and menus down the left side, which is very common these days. Very common is a good thing here. This layout is intuitive, easy to follow, and enables the admin to get up and running very quickly without having to hunt for anything. Kudos to GFI for not trying to reinvent the wheel, and for resisting the temptation to go with Flash or anything else other than a simple, clean, and easy to use interface.
Figure 1 Clean layout, easy to use, no Flash!
GFI MailEssentials Performance
MCO does a great job of filtering out all the mail you don’t want that wastes your bandwidth or consumes resources on the server. SMTP of course cannot guarantee a particular time for delivery, but we noticed no slow down between sending emails from external systems and receiving them internally. What we did notice was that we had more available bandwidth on our Internet connection now that so much less noise was hitting our border, and our Exchange server stopped warning us every other day that it was running out of disk space.
In a week of testing, we saw practically no spam at all, not a single virus, and only a couple of false positives. And the false positives were easily dealt with, because MCO empowers users to handle their own quarantines!
User benefits of GFI MailEssentials
That’s right, MCO offers users complete self-service. Any user can log on at any time to check their own spam folder, update their safe sender and blocked sender lists, and MCO will send each user a personalized digest of the previous day’s blocked messages each morning. Users can click on a link next to any message they want "released" and it will arrive in their mailbox moments later. They neither have to wait for IT, nor open a ticket. It’s a win for everyone.
MCO also comes with what they call Email Continuity. If you have a problem with your mail server, Internet circuit, or anything else that "breaks" your email, users with Internet access can log onto MCO to send and receive email right from the MCO portal. It’s an emergency version of webmail that keeps business running, even when an outage hits.
MCO offers optional archiving, which can preserve all sent and received email, or using journaling, even archive your internal emails. It’s a great add-on service that more and more businesses are going to have to consider as legislation continues to evolve with email as a source of critical and discoverable information. That aside, it makes for a nice addition to your business continuity.
Over all, GFI MailEssentials Complete Online is a great product, and we can see a lot of potential in the product. The costs are low, predictable, and easy to manage, and are based simply on the number of users, with no startup costs or other initial investment. There’s no hardware to buy, no software to install, and nothing you have to maintain on an ongoing basis. It should work with any email system you have. If you would like to learn more, or take it for a test drive yourself, click the link above, and enjoy!
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