• [Review] GFI Max Mail Protection

    Published by on April 7th, 2010 5:45 pm under Security

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    Summary

    Cloud computing, Infrastructure and Platform as a Service is becoming a key business enabler for the CIO of any mid-sized company. Why are hosted services a key enabler for small IT departments? Easy, inherent complexity in a growing business makes it very hard to keep a great level of service constantly while the months pass by.

    Hosted solutions look like a charm when they are well implemented, and this is why I took a look at GFI Max MailProtection, because as a consultant I need know how these services are performing. I was very impressed by GFI Max MailProtection, I hope you enjoy this review and if you are looking for a hosted solution for your email sanitization you should definitely take a look at this great service from the people at GFI.

    Review

    As a technical leader and consultant I am in constant touch with my customers and need to stay current with management and security solutions. So, I gave GFI’s mail security hosted solution a try and found a very professional service run by these people, keep on reading to find out more!

    Getting a Free Trial

    Your journey begins with a free 30 day trial, this process was simpler than I thought, not much information is gathered in the two step form and you are not “invited” to enter your credit card information, this means that if you are simply curious as I am you will find that it is easy to get going with the service.

    The terms and conditions proposed by GFI are fair enough knowing what other vendors offer, on the SERVICE LEVEL COMMITMENT AND EXCLUSIVE REMEDY section they state “if GFI determines that the GFI Systems were unavailable for twenty or more consecutive minutes during a calendar month, GFI, upon Customer’s request within five days of such event, will credit Customer’s account the pro-rated charges for one (1) day of the contracted GFI Service(s)” you may think twenty or more minutes worth more than 1 day of contracted service, however it is comparable to the Google Apps Premier conditions or Amazon Web Services to name a few mission critical hosted services. I am used to this kind of agreement and I learned that you need to use the service to see how it works when you need to move a mid-sized business forward and you do not have a legal department to back you up on a possible legal prosecution.

    Then, the CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION section states “IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT IN ALL CASES, CLIENT’S EMAIL SHALL BE DEEMED AS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION” however they NEED to access the information to guarantee sanitization, that’s a fact; you cannot cure what you cannot touch. From my perspective there is a good understanding of the intellectual property as an asset and they take care of making it explicit on this agreement.

    After a few seconds my free trial was provisioned and I got my login information on my inbox. Sweet!

    Initial Configuration

    Well, it took me 5 minutes to go through the basic initial 4-step configuration:

    1. Set up a DOMAIN in the control panel.
    2. Set up the USERS (email addresses) for the domain.
    3. Configure INBOUND FILTERING.
    4. Change the DNS “MX” records for your domain

    Setting up my domain I found a great multi-tenancy approach to ease the administration of multiple companies. Every action you take is in the context of an organization,

    Creating users is easy, your end-users will need to access the GFI console to see how their SPAM is been handled for example.

    Configuring Inbound filtering has a handy slider-like control for your aggressive posture, the default configuration is highly aggressive which sounds good to me.

    If you like Grey-listing (which is not my case) you have the chance to train your tool to challenge your unknown sender email server, although you must be willing to accept delays on your email delivery which may not be acceptable for your CXO end-users.

    Finally, I changed my MX records to point to the GFI servers. It took a couple of hours for my email to begin flowing though GFI MAX MailProtection[GBO1] .

    I had nothing to do next, so, in the meantime, I took a couple of minutes to take a look at the reporting capabilities and I found a neat report which enables serious threat analysis to support most of any security process needs. Summarized by days you will begin having numbers and knowing your users taxonomy, for example which sector has the worst received/infected ratio to take preventive actions.

    Conclusion

    I had extensive use of other hosted email sanitization services like Postini. GFI did a great job in the ease of use aspect making the life of the IT professional a bit easier allowing him to manage more volume more effectively. They also provide a great experience for the end-user making it more tangible as to why email sanitization is necessary showing how many SPAM messages were filtered, every security professional agrees this: “End user training is key for the security of the enterprise” so, end-users need to be aware and services like this which are hard to maintain on a mid-sized business with an IT area of 4 guys help to move towards this vision.