In this blog post we provide a high-level overview of GFI MailEssentials, an enterprise Microsoft Exchange security software.

In this raffle you can win a GFI MailEssentials license for 200 users, valued $2300USD. The deadline for this contest is August 26, 2012. If you want to have a chance to win this license, please send an email with the subject “GFI MailEssentials” to .

Exchange security software - GFI MailEssentials

Exchange security software - GFI MailEssentials

Consider the following scenario: You are the IT manager for a small organization. You deploy Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 as a messaging solution for the company. However, you are amazed despite yourself at the disproportionate percentage of spam and malicious e-mail messages that reach your users’ Outlook 2010 inboxes. You need to develop a solution to this problem, and quickly. One of your key requirements is that users can continue to use Outlook 2010 to manage their e-mail and that the solution not require the installation and maintenance of client-side anti-spam software.

Our proposed answer to this fictional scenario is GFI Software’s MailEssentials. MailEssentials is a server-side e-mail security and anti-spam solution for Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, 2007, and 2010. The product takes a multi-engine approach to combating junk e-mail messages and dangerous HTML code and file attachments. In fact, GFI boasts a 99 percent capture rate.

In this first of a two-part review we will examine the core feature set of GFI MailEssentials. We will also differentiate among the three members of the MailEssentials product portfolio, including coverage of a hosted option. We will conclude with a consideration of the product pricing and licensing models.

In the forthcoming second part of this review we will examine a live implementation of MailEssentials in a Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 organization and observe the product’s major features in action.

MailEssentials core feature set ^

GFI MailEssentials is a completely server-based solution that requires no client-side agent software. As we will learn in part 2 of this review, we can install MailEssentials either directly on one of our Exchange Server boxes inside our private network or we can deploy a MailEssentials standalone server on our network perimeter.

The two centerpiece modules in GFI MailEssentials are its antispam and anti-malware (virus, Trojan, malicious HTML, etc.) engines. What is particularly interesting is that each of these features takes a multi-engine, multi-heuristic approach to combating spam and malicious code.

For instance, the VBSpam-certified anti-spam solution in MailEssentials actually consists of several separate filters, including the following:

  • Bayesian filtering: Determines spam messages by using “intelligence” and statistical probability/analysis
  • SpamRazer: Does its work by using e-mail reputation, message fingerprinting and content analysis
  • Anti-Phishing: Keeps a constantly updated list of known phishing URLs
  • IP/URI DNS Blocklists: Maintains list of known “spammy” DNS servers and blocks their traffic

MailEssentials also takes a multi-engine approach to combating malicious code. The VIPRE and BitDefender antivirus engines are included in the product by default. For extra charge, we can add in the following antimalware definition updates:

These antivirus scanning engines operate on all incoming and outgoing mail and attachments, of course. In addition, we can configure MailEssentials to scan the Exchange Information Store for malicious code. This Web-based administration interface is shown in the following figure.

Exchange security software - GFI MailEssentials - Multi-engine antivirus scanning

GFI MailEssentails - Multi-engine antivirus scanning

GFI MailEssentials also provides a Trojan and executable scanner that determines the function of executable files that are attached to e-mail messages. The E-mail Exploit Engine blocks dangerous code that is embedded in e-mail messages. Finally, the HTML Sanitizer scans message content for scripting/active code and strips it away from the message body.

I know from personal experience that I often need to rely upon more than one scanning engine to ensure the safety of a user’s computer. Thus, I take comfort in the fact that GFI MailEssentials doesn’t “put all its eggs in one basket,” as it were, in terms of implementing only one approach to antispam and antivirus.

NOTE: To learn more details about the GFI MailEssentials feature set, please see their online GFI MailEssentials Administrator Guide.

GFI MailEssentials offers administrators a Web-based administration console that is available to them wherever they can reach the MailEssentials server with a Web browser (MailEssentials relies upon IIS for its Web services, by the way).

The client experience with MailEssentials is fairly transparent. Because MailEssentials extends users’ familiar Microsoft Outlook mailboxes with additional content folders, user training is made as easy as possible. These additional folders are depicted in the following screen capture:

Exchange security software - GFI MailEssentials - Outlook integration

GFI MailEssentials Outlook integration

GFI MailEssentials Product Family ^

GFI MailEssentials ships in three editions:

  • Anti-Spam Edition: Includes just the anti-spam functionality
  • EmailSecurity Edition: Includes just the antimalware functionality
  • UnifiedProtection Edition: Includes the functionality of both Anti-Spam Edition and EmailSecurity Edition

GFI offers product pricing on a per-mailbox, per-edition basis. Definition subscriptions for the extra antivirus engines are also sold on a per-mailbox basis. The licensing includes one year of built-in support. When this term expires, you can purchase additional support coverage in one, two, or three year blocks.

With cloud computing being all the rage nowadays, it makes sense that GFI offers MailEssentials as a hosted option as well. Free trials are available for both GFU MailEssentials and MailEssentials Online; check out the GFI Web site for details.

Conclusion ^

GFI has obviously put a lot of thought into their MailEssentials platform. For my money, this is excellent, comprehensive protection. In the second part of this review, we will cover product installation scenarios and basic configuration tasks.

In this raffle you can win a GFI MailEssentials license for 200 users, valued $2300USD. The deadline for this contest is August 26, 2012. If you want to have a chance to win this license, please send an email with the subject “GFI MailEssentials” to .

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