Clearswift Smart Web and Mail
Strengths: Peer grouping provides centralised management, excellent anti-spam and web filtering performance, good value for money
Weaknesses: Filtering policies initially look complex, HTTPS scanning costs extra
Verdict: A classy web content and email security solution, well suited to SMBs
Clearswift has always had a firm focus on messaging and web content security and traditionally offers different appliance-based solutions for each. Its latest Smart Web and Mail product brings the two together in a partnership that targets entry-level applications for SMBs.
You may think having two separate appliances is going to increase management and support overheads, but you'd be wrong. Each appliance can be managed separately, but its peer-grouping feature allows both to be accessed from a single web console.
You get a pair of good quality Dell PowerEdge R200 rack servers, each kitted out with a 1.73GHz Celeron 430 processor and 1GB of DDR2 memory. There is a basic 80GB Sata hard disk for the hardened Linux OS and quarantine duties, plus a Gigabit port for the network connection.
The price for the system on review includes all features except HTTPS scanning. Note that you pay a one-off fee for the hardware and support costs for the second year drop to less than £3,000.
We started with the web security appliance, where you run through a wizard-guided installation and move to the main web console, one of the best designed on the market. It separates each key function into different centres and the home page offers quick access, plus a full status summary.
We followed the same path for the mail security appliance and from the web appliance console we added it as a peer system. The policy centre page was then updated to show all the mail security and policy route options.
Both appliances employ three-stage filtering policies that unite content rules and routes to define what they should look for, how to handle web or mail content that triggers a rule and who should be notified. Clearswift includes a range of pre-defined references.
The web appliance offers a default policy, so it can start filtering immediately. You can then create web filters containing multiple protocols, URL categories and custom lists of sites.
Clearswift's SpamLogic and the MailFilters solution provide good spam defences, as they bring together a multitude of tests. Kaspersky handles virus-scanning duties and also includes protection against spyware and phishing. All dubious messages and attachments are dropped into quarantine areas.
Policy routes are used to apply filtering policies to machine lists. This latest version also includes a scheduler that determines when policies are active during each day.
Web-filtering performance was very good. If you want to block access to social networking sites, you will need to create a new web policy route for the Personal Websites category. Clearswift also includes a website categoriser.
For anti-spam testing, we used a mail forwarder to send mail from live accounts to the appliance. After it had processed each one, it passed it on to our internal mail server. We created a mail policy that tagged suspect mail and released it, rather than placing it in quarantine. This was easy to do.
We ran the test for a week, where our Outlook clients were configured to drop tagged messages into a separate folder. Clearswift delivered excellent results, with the mail appliance catching 98 per cent of all spam.
We would recommend taking time to understand how the various components interact, as it can be confusing. Smart Web & Mail offers a powerful web content and messaging solution that delivers excellent filtering performance, easy management and detailed reporting.