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TACKtech Corp. > Articles > Reviews > Software Review

GFI MAX MailProtection Review (TTID #430)

Author: Sean McCreary   Views: 8,336 /  Created: May 18, 2010
GFI has two e-mail security services — MailEdge and MailProtection. We were given a choice between the two when we registered for a free trial. We chose GFI MailProtection. Once we had logged into our account and configured a domain, we were then given, under the Domain Management tab in the Services settings, an option to change from Full (MailProtection) or Edge (MailEdge) protection. Depending on which one was chosen, additional options were available to configure prior to saving the setting. The only real difference we noted between GFI MailProtection and GFI MailEdge is that GFI MailProtection also provided virus protection where GFI MailEdge did not. Both products are marketed to small and medium sized-businesses.

On the GFI website, both GFI MailProtection and GFI MailEdge are listed as providing e-mail threat protection and an e-mail security solution. While GFI MailEdge appears to provide an additional layer of spam filtering to compliment a business' already existing anti-spam and anti-virus protection, GFI MailProtection is marketed as the only e-mail security solution you need. It can also be implemented, however, in conjunction with any existing anti-virus or anti-spam filtering solution a business may have. It appears the two services are very similar except for the anti-virus services that GFI MailProtection provides over GFI MailEdge. GFI states the virus protection has both zero-hour protection and up to five signature-based anti-virus engines. There is not really any details given on how the zero-hour virus protection works, but during our trial run of the hosted service, no virus e-mails got through.

Initial Setup
When we registered for the GFI-hosted services, the registration page gave us the choice of registering for GFI MailEdge or GFI MailProtection. The short overview of the two services did not give us a clear understanding of the difference between the two, but we registered for GFI MailProtection since it could function as a stand-alone security solution. Since registering for GFI MailProtection, we have found separate pages explaining each of the hosted services with links to separate registrations. This makes the process of choosing and registering a lot less confusing. Also, when we configured the test domain and the filtering settings, we only configured inbound filtering. No outbound filtering was set up but could easily be done from the control panel. Our intent was to strictly test the spam filtering and virus protection for inbound emails since the test domain receives a lot of spam.

GFI MailProtection Features
GFI MailProtection has the typical whitelist and blacklist features. You can blacklist or whitelist using e-mail addresses, by subject or by source IP address. Spam settings include unknown users, aggressiveness, and greylisting. Also, additional blocking rules can be changed based on character sets and attachment types. Advanced options include the ability to block non-delivery reports and hide egregious (the highest scoring) spam.

GFI MailProtection also has outbound filtering settings which can be configured and includes designating authorized senders as well as settings for outbound spam and virus-infected messages. You can also append disclaimers and signatures to your outbound messages under the outbound filtering settings.

Individual users can be inserted manually which would be labor intensive task if you had any more than a few employees. You can also import users if they are in XML format. There are also capabilities to set up and manage more than one domain. Also, under the organization tab, permissions can be set for users. Alert settings allows you to set up when and how you are notified as well as what changes must occur before you are notified of an alert. As stated before under Domain Management, you can click on the services tab so you can change from GFI MailProtection (full) to GFI MailEdge (edge) protection. When you make the change between these two, there are additional settings that become available prior to saving the new settings.

The main header tabs include Home, Messgaes, Management, Reports and Support. The message tab allows you to view the messages and their disposition, such as delivered, quarantined etc. Also, you can see if they were considered spam, virus messages, or egregious spam, etc. With the Report function, you can look at the number of messages handled during a specific period of time as well as how many were spam, viruses, or were blocked. This is not a complete list of features but includes the main features as well as the ones we used the most when testing and reviewing GFI MailProtection.

The domain we chose to use for this test was one where a lot of spam e-mail was received on a regular basis. In the period of approximately one month, a total of 9188 e-mail messages were received and handled by GFI MailProtection. Out of the total, 9152 inbound messages were considered problem e-mails. Of the problem e-mails, 7 were viruses, 426 were considered spam, and 8719 were blocked. GFI MailProtection was configured to block any unknown users, and it appears that is where the majority of blocked messages came from. During this period of time, we had no false positives with GFI MailProtection being 98 percent effective with about 2 percent of the spam making it through the filter. This was an especially high percentage since there was no tweaking of the settings after they were originally set up and configured.

After the initial registration, we received an e-mail from GFI support stating that our free trial had been activated. This gave us the log-in information but also gave us the four steps that we needed to follow to start filtering our e-mail messages. It also contained a link to a Quickstart Guide in pdf format as well as contact information for the GFI Support. Within hours, GFI support personnel also contacted us by phone to see if we needed any assistance in setting up or configuring the service.

We chose to skip the Quickstart guide as well as using the support staff. We logged into our account and started setting the service up. It may have been easier if we had read the Quickstart guide first or use the support staff. We would recommend that anyone trying the service who does not have a tech background use the live support staff from GFI to walk them through the setup and configuration of the service. Even with both of us having tech backgrounds, there was a definite learning curve in understanding the different settings and configuration options that the service provides. It would be nice to have a setup wizard to guide users through the initial setup of the service. This was most noticeable when we had to make changes to the MX records for our e-mail server. The necessary changes for the MX Records are listed in the Domain Overview, but there was no explanation of what needed to be done with these records in order to have the service filter the e-mail messages. Anyone setting up the service who is not familiar with MX Records would have a hard time understanding what to do with these records to make the service function correctly. Again, this is where a setup wizard would have been helpful.

The configuration settings and options that this service provides are also not set up in a user-friendly manner. Even after using it for some time, I noticed different ways to get to particular settings using the different main tabs and sub-tabs. While some settings were available through a couple of different avenues, other settings were only available through one avenue. It was hard to remember and get back to some of the available settings when we were using the service. Overall, the service seemed very effective in blocking unwanted e-mail messages but using it could be frustrating at times.

For example, one feature that was promoted on the website was being able to brand the GUI or control panel used by a business's employees or users. We went through all configuration settings looking for the place to include our company logo and make changes to the color scheme to reflect our brand or business but were unable to find it. While the function is probably there, we would have had to call GFI support to find it.

Instead of having to set up individual users when you set up a domain, it would have been easier if there was a way to filter all mail coming to that domain's mail server without setting up the individual users. This would be beneficial for those companies that just want to filter the messages coming to their company for spam and viruses. This option would not allow you to block messages to unknown users but would still allow filtering the messages for some of the main threats which are viruses and spam.

Another small annoyance was on the message tab. When you clicked on it, a message would appear: “You must select a user or domain to view message information.” In the left hand corner, you can click the change icon, but then you must type in the domain or go back to the control panel and select the domain before clicking on the message tab again. Instead of having to go back and select the domain in the Domain Overview or type in the domain, it would be simpler to have a drop-down menu to select available domains from the message screen.

Most of the issues we raised really did not affect the effectiveness of the service, just the ease with which the service could be used. Overall, it blocked 98 percent of the spam and other problem e-mail messages. Although we did have some spam make it through the filter, it was better than having false positives where good e-mail is blocked by the service.

The only real difference we could see between the two services of GFI MailEdge (LINK TO) and GFI MailProtection (LINK TO) is that GFI MailProtection also provides virus scanning and protection in addition to spam filtering. With today's security environment, we would recommend the use of GFI MailProtection over GFI MailEdge because of the additional layer of virus protection even with a virus or malware solution running on your company's gateway or mail server. By doing this, you have implemented one of the basic principles of security which is layered protection. What one service or solution does not catch, hopefully the second layer will.

The only information we could not find on the GFI website was pricing information. Pricing information should be more prominent and easily found so that a businesses knows the approximate cost before even signing up for the trial service.

If you want someone else to handle email filtering for your business, this is one possible solution. GFI MailProtection was very effective in blocking about 98 percent of the spam and blocking around 99 percent of problem-noted e-mails.

Reviewed by
Sean McCreary of Business Security Information
Travis McQuinn of TACKtech Corp. and CFMonster Corp.

Ease of use:
Value for money:

Revision History:

05-18-2010 - Initial Article

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