Sherpa Software Mail Attender for Exchange 3.5 review

Price when reviewed

Microsoft Exchange may be the top choice of email server for a wide range of businesses, but its mailbox management and reporting tools do come in for some criticism. Sherpa Software’s Mail Attender steps neatly into this gap and aims to provide a wide range of features to help network administrators keep on top of the email deluge, enforce acceptable use policies and clamp down on storage wastage.

Sherpa Software Mail Attender for Exchange 3.5 review

Mail Attender doesn’t interact with the flow of email, but provides tools to access selected Exchange mailboxes, public folders and locally stored PST files. Using a system of rules, it analyses them and can either report its findings or use actions to carry out a range of tasks. Mail Attender supports Exchange 5.5, 2000 and 2003, and can be installed on a separate system to that running the mail server where it provides a simple web browser management interface. Multiple instances of Mail Attender may also be run across the same network, and with the Synchronisation service installed these are able to share rules or manage their own sets of rules and actions.

We tested Mail Attender in a Windows Server 2003 domain with Exchange 2003 installed and found installation takes only a few minutes. The browser interface is easy to use and your first task is to declare information stores that comprise Exchange mailboxes, public folders and PST files. Multiple mailboxes may be added from global address lists, and you can pick individual ones from a selected Exchange server. To bring local PST files into the frame, you need to install a desktop listener service on the Mail Attender server and load a local processing engine on each client system. Then, you can add local PST files using a search routine that looks on selected systems for these files.

For rule creation, select the declared resources they’re to be applied to and decide what you want to look for. An extensive list of predefined conditions is provided, so you can check on the age, type and status of messages, gather information about file sizes and use keyword searches in the subject, message body and embedded messages in attachments. There’s also a specific condition for checking how close a PST file is getting to the 2GB limit. Actions range from passive reporting to carrying out specific housekeeping tasks, and Mail Attender provides plenty of predefined options. Attachments over a specific size may be copied elsewhere, deleted or compressed into a ZIP file; scripts or other programs can be run; and quotas on mailboxes modified. These are only a few choices, as there’s an impressive range of actions to play with.

You can run rules on demand or you may use the built-in scheduler to fire them up every few minutes or at specific times on days and weeks. Individual PST files can even be automatically defragmented when a rule has completed. Reporting is one area that could be improved, although it does provide reasonable levels of information and basic statistics.

With disk space always at a premium, it pays to manage email more effectively. Mail Attender for Exchange certainly provides the tools to do this, and could prove a valuable ally to administrators charged with the task of enforcing acceptable use of email within their business.

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