We found installation a swift process where you start with a local monitor and keyboard and provide basic details such as an IP address, gateway and DNS. Then you move over to remote management where the appliance presents a tidy and intuitive web interface.
Your first job is to add mail domains and network addresses of mail servers you want the appliance to route mail for. Options are provided for adding bulk entries, which is just as well as the 900 supports between 15,000 and 30,000 users and 5,000 domains.
You must factor in additional costs as although the appliance with one-year warranty is £31,449, you will need the Energize Updates that provide all signatures for the spam, virus and security components. A three-year subscription costs £27,749, and upgrading to a three-year warranty adds another £17,649 to the bill.
Value does improve when you consider that the Energize Updates subscription also includes Barracuda's Cloud Protection Layer (CPL). This hosted service can be used to filter out spam and viruses before they reach your network, so reducing traffic and appliance overheads substantially.
CPL is managed from the Control Center web portal, which provides remote access to all your Barracuda products. From the portal we could monitor CPL activity and view the appliance's own web interface and remotely configure it. The ability to manage multiple appliances from one CPL portal makes it useful for hosted messaging security providers.
The appliance hardware could be better for the price as this elderly 2U Supermicro rack server has a modest specification with a pair of 2.6GHz 6-core Opteron processors and only 8GB of DDR2 memory. The OS and quarantine stores are RAID-protected and you get dual power supplies, but it's a very noisy box best suited to a server room.
Its web interface opens with an informative status screen showing bar charts of hourly and daily inbound and outbound mail statistics. These are colour coded, making it easy to see the amount of mail being allowed, tagged, quarantined, blocked or limited.
Barracuda may use a simple scoring system for determining whether to block, quarantine or tag inbound mail, but behind this lies a 12-step spam-detection process. These checks include RBLs, reverse DNS lookups, Bayesian algorithms, fingerprinting, IP reputation, intent analysis, content filtering and keyword or pattern matching.
Outbound mail may be blocked or quarantined, and applying keyword and pattern matching provides basic data leak prevention measures as the appliance can be set to check for business-sensitive information. It can scan the content of text-based documents, with the option to automatically encrypt outbound emails that trigger pattern matches.
You can also check attachments and watch out for executables, PDFs or Microsoft Office documents, and block or quarantine password-protected archives. Creating a list of patterns will be a largely manual affair as although Barracuda provides lists of credit cards, social security numbers and HIPPA information, these are specific to the US.
You can extend virus scanning to Microsoft Exchange servers as Barracuda provides an agent for all versions including Exchange 2010. You can also involve users in spam detection as they can download an Outlook plug-in from the appliance's user interface, which allows them to classify messages from their desktop as spam, whitelist them or ask the appliance to encrypt selected outbound messages.
During anti-spam performance testing we found the appliance was remarkably successful on its default settings. We placed it in a live environment and left it to filter inbound mail for three weeks. We find this method more realistic than using fake or harvested spam lists as it tells us how well the appliance handles real-time threats as they emerge. At the end of the test the appliance had filtered more than 6,250 emails, and out of 1,460 spam messages it missed only 13, giving it a success rate of 99 per cent. False positives were negligible as it only tagged four genuine messages as spam, and we didn't have to mess with the suspect spam score as this incorrectly tagged only seven emails.
The message log shows a complete list of all emails and how they were handled. From here, blocked messages can be delivered or added to a whitelist, and the whole log exported to a CSV file.
Plenty more reporting features are provided and include ones for the top spam receivers or senders, viruses, blocked attachments and much more. Reports can be run on demand or scheduled and sent to a list of email addresses.
It is expensive but the Spam and Virus Firewall 900 is an easily deployed messaging security solution that delivers a remarkable anti-spam performance straight from the box.