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The unending tide of spam is increasing in volume and sophistication, clogging mail servers and sapping productivity. Battling spam, in fact, has become one of the most important tasks handled by security administrators on networks of any size.
Smaller networks seem to be more vulnerable to the effects of spam due to tighter budgets and less sophisticated technology. Yet, larger networks are not immune to the problem, struggling under its burden despite rollouts of more costly security technologies.
Controlling spam has become a delicate balancing act of allowing legitimate communications to arrive at the proper destination and keeping unsolicited e-mails out of the system, all while maintaining user productivity and network performance.
What's more, spammers are using new techniques to bypass traditional filtering technologies and also are using spam to deliver spyware, adware, key loggers and other malware used to steal information. Solution providers aiming to stay ahead of these attacks will need to follow through with new ideas and more creative products.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Proofpoint is heeding that call and is ready to arm the channel with a new way to fight spam in the form of its Messaging Security Gateway Virtual Edition. The product combines the strengths of software-based antispam solutions with the ease of use associated with an appliance by using virtual technology. In other words, the product runs as a virtual server on a host running VMware's virtual server software.
By moving what was once based on a dedicated hardware appliance over to a virtual appliance, Proofpoint has solved all of the problems associated with proprietary hardware. Issues such as costly upgrades, lack of business-continuity capabilities and short product life cycles have become a thing of the past with Proofpoint's virtual offering.
Proofpoint's Messaging Security Gateway Virtual Edition offers a plethora of security features, including antispam, antivirus and outbound content control capabilities. The product uses a high-performance mail transfer agent (MTA) to handle both inbound and outbound e-mail at the gateway level, which prevents malicious code from entering the network to be processed.
Overall, CRN Test Center engineers found the installation of the product quite easy. Product installation is surprisingly straightforward, considering the lack of a physical appliance to plug in.
On the downside, solution providers will have to be knowledgeable about VMware's virtual server architecture to maximize performance and scalability.
On the upside, increased performance takes little more than moving the virtual appliance over to more robust hardware. That usually can be accomplished by simply copying the Virtual Hard Drive (VHD) from an existing system to a new system running VMware. That same capability bodes well for backup and disaster recovery: a simple copy of the VHD allows an enterprise to recover quickly from a hardware failure.
For e-mail filtering products, integration capabilities reign supreme. After all, the ability to integrate any e-mail product into an existing infrastructure is critical. Considerations such as user directories, existing MTAs and other network elements must be addressed.
The product's quick-start wizard was more than up to the task of identifying and integrating with existing network capabilities. Although the quick-start wizard made simple work of the initial configuration, installers will have to know intimate details about the existing network directories, mail servers and so on.
Engineers also found the product's browser-based management console to be well designed and easy to navigate, despite the overall complexity of the product. That complexity is simplified by presenting the numerous options in sections and subsections for easy configuration.