Marshal MailMarshal SMTP 2006 review

Price when reviewed

Formerly part of the NetIQ software empire, MailMarshal was acquired in a management buyout at the end of last year by the newly formed Marshal. And just in time too, as NetIQ was in the process of being taken over by AttachMate as we wrote this review.

The last time we looked at MailMarshal, we felt it offered a strong alternative to appliance-based message security products. Appliances may offer a plug-and-go solution, but you’ll always pay a premium for the hardware platform. With MailMarshal, you simply choose your own. This latest version brings in some interesting anti-spam-related features, with CountryCensor at the top of the list. Combining this with spam RBLs allows businesses to filter inbound email based on the country of origin. MailMarshal also gets tougher on DoS and directory harvesting attacks by requiring external email servers to adhere to FQDN (fully qualified domain name) standards.

MailMarshal comprises a large collection of modules for processing email, configuration, an SQL database, monitoring, reporting plus web-based spam quarantine access. Small businesses will find it easy enough to install, and we set it up to act as an internal relay, which sat in front of our Windows Server 2003 domain controller running Kerio’s MailServer 6.1.3. MailMarshal also allows the individual components to be installed onto an array supporting multiple mail processing nodes.

MailMarshal uses policies applied to individual users and groups to check all incoming and outbound messages. These are listed in order of processing priority and each contains several rules, which are also ordered according to priority. Plenty of predefined rules are already active by default. You use the Configurator to view, modify and add your own policy groups and rules, and change their priorities.

Policies make MailMarshal extremely flexible, as you can use them to check on areas such as attachment types, message sizes, number of recipients and headers. There are plenty of actions to choose from. Keyword lists are provided, but it’s easy enough to create your own or add extra ones to existing lists. These extensive filters allow AUPs (acceptable use policies) to be implemented easily. We found it simple enough to create a custom group and add a bunch of rules that looked for specific words in each message. Any emails that triggered the rules were intercepted and placed in a custom folder for further investigation and retained for two weeks. The CountryCensor component is implemented as an XML file, which you can customise by adding codes for specific countries you don’t want to receive mail from.

You need to provide your own anti-virus scanning software, and MailMarshal works with most of the big names. We used Norman Virus Control, which needed to be installed first and then declared to MailMarshal. We found that its real-time scanning needed to be switched off; otherwise, it would intercept infected emails as they came in and delete the attachments before MailMarshal could get involved.

MailMarshal has always put forward a strong argument in favour of the software approach to message security. This latest version simply strengthens its case with even tougher anti-spam measures, easily managed policies and an affordable price.

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