Many businesses still consider anti-spam appliances too complex to deploy, but the Pro 2000 from UK-based CronLab claims a ten-minute installation. Furthermore, it avoids the complexity inherent in many solutions, as it requires no additional configuration of mail servers or clients.
It targets businesses of up to 1,000 users and is supplied as a low-profile 1U rack server. Our only criticism is the high noise levels from its blower fan, which won't be an issue in a server room but be very irritating in an office.
To test the appliance, we inserted it into a live environment, where it would filter email coming into a number of real accounts. This allows IP reputation filters to work properly and shows how well it deals with the latest threats.
A local connection to the CLI is required for initial installation and then you move over to the appliance's intuitive web interface. All we needed to provide were details of the mail domains to be filtered, along with basic information about our mail server.
Our last task was to go to our ISP's mail server settings and change the DNS MX record to point at the appliance. The entire deployment process is very simple and can, indeed, be completed inside of ten minutes.
CronLab's defences include anti-spam and anti-virus, plus protection against phishing, spoofing and spyware. Along with some proprietary techniques, it uses the SpamAssassin mail filter, which is preconfigured with a complete set of policies.
ClamAV handles anti-virus scanning and CronLab can also provide BitDefender, if dual scanning engines are required. Administrators have no access to the policies or spam scoring system used by the appliance, as this is all handled by CronLab.
When messages come in, the appliance automatically updates its internal list of valid email addresses as new ones are detected and sets up user accounts. No administration is required; the first time users log in, it generates a password and emails it to them.
Users can securely view their personal quarantine area. The deletion process allows it to learn about new spam messages, so it can update its own rulesets.
Footers are added to inbound and outbound email, but users can log in to their personal area and turn this off for either direction. For phishing protection, the appliance inserts warning messages into suspicious emails, while users can report sites declared as suspect but deemed to be safe.
The web interface home page provides a clear overview of mail activity. A pie chart shows a breakdown of all messages and a table can be set to show numbers for the past month or week.
No further configuration was necessary to provide full anti-spam protection. Users continued to receive their email as normal.
During a three-week test period, the appliance recorded a total of 4,041 inbound messages. Of these, 2,039 messages were found by the Pro 2000 to have no valid recipient and were blocked, reducing the load on the mail server.
It recorded a total of 1,644 clean messages; detected spam totalled 354, with a further 32 placed in quarantine for inspection. In total, only 22 spam messages were not picked up by the appliance, giving an impressive overall detection rate of 99.1 per cent.
Spam detection performance is extremely good, with our live tests showing very little slipping past CronLab's defences and minimal false positives. The automated message centre configuration and user password generation also significantly reduced support overheads, allowing us to easily delegate many tasks to our users.
Other initial tasks that will require intervention are primarily based around CronLab's reporting facilities. It can email reports to multiple email addresses.
These can be generated at different intervals per recipient, so you could have some receiving a daily report and others fortnightly. A PDF report is produced, which contains a table and a simple bar graph of the month's activity.
The quarantine area is enabled by default, as are spam digests, sent to each user every day. Some intervention is possible as quarantining can be disabled and the digests sent at different times.
A close competitor to CronLab is Barracuda's Spam and Virus Firewall 300, which does look better value. However, from our experiences, the Pro 2000 is easier to deploy and manage and CronLab also allows customer branding across all of its products.
An optional feature offered by CronLab is its Email Attachment Saver, which tackles the problems of sending or receiving large files.
Live test results show clearly that CronLab delivers on its promises. It is easy to install and deploy, while ongoing admin is kept to an absolute minimum. As a high-performance, plug-and-go anti-spam solution, CronLab Pro 2000 succeeds admirably.