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MailSite Sets Sights on E-Mail Needs, Large and Small
MailSite: Competitively priced, combination mail and groupware server MailSite from Rockliffe is a competitively priced, combination mail and groupware server. Its four flavors seek to cover the mail management needs for organizations of all size, and subscriptions to anti-spam and anti-virus updates are available from Rockliffe for an additional fee. We explore whether MailSite has what it takes to succeed in this crowded and commoditized space.
It is an easy argument that venturing into the network mail server space is hardly ideal for budding entrepreneurs or, for that matter, risk-averse but financially secure venture capitalists. For Rockliffe, however, it is akin to bread and butter. The vendors' MailSite product competes in an already crowded market that extends as far back as the Internet itself.
In some ways, a mail server is a commodity offering. The basic nuts and bolts for mail servers have been mature for some time now; the software receives incoming mail and delivers it to a local recipient (or else bounces it back to sender), or it sends outgoing mail to the Internet. To differentiate themselves, mail server vendors have opted for several strategies. For example, performance mail servers are designed to handle huge loads in cluster configurations. Other mail servers have broadened their scope beyond e-mail and have morphed into messaging platforms handling such disparate communications as instant messaging, message boards, and scheduling. But the most powerful driver in the e-mail evolution has been the proliferation of viruses and spam.
MailSite is available in several variations aimed at different markets. The "SE" version reviewed here supports up to 500 mailboxes and is oriented toward small to midsize enterprises. The LE, SP, and NS versions add clustering and database enhancements to better suit large businesses, ISPs, and major enterprises, respectively. Support for both anti-virus and anti-spam defenses is integrated into MailSite, but subscriptions to updated spam and virus databases cost extra. These enhancements are priced as yearly subscriptions and are at least as much as the base SE package. For example, for the 50-mailbox SE platform (which is priced at $595), anti-spam updates and anti-virus updates each cost $595 for one year. These subscriptions each double in price for the 500-mailbox SE version: $1,495 for the mail server and $2,995 the anti-spam or anti-virus update.
MailSite SE is available as a 30 MB download. The application installs into 20 MB of disk space initially. Of course, user mailboxes will add to storage consumption. The installer is routine and most likely will not frighten off an administrator new to mail server configuration. However, the product does require Microsoft IIS be running on the server. The installer does not check for IIS, and ultimately it will fail to install, generating a mysterious-looking error, if IIS is not enabled. As a result, MailSite may not be suitable for Windows-heavy organizations running a Web server other than IIS.
MailSite is configured and administered through either the Windows-based management console or a Web browser. The product features a standard Internet-Explorer-like interface with hierarchical groups of management options. As with many mail servers, users can access e-mail via a POP or IMAP client, or using a Web browser pointed at Rockliffe's included MailSite Express configurable Webmail.
Most of MailSite 6's newest features are centered around virus and spam defense. This is, not surprisingly, the epicenter of growth in today's mail servers. The product offers a nicely multi-faceted approach to identifying and managing spam. To help identify spam, MailSite employs what Rockliffe calls a "cocktail," or combination of content filters, black lists, white lists, and ActiveState's heuristics technology. Incoming messages are assigned an overall score, and MailSite's "Sieve Rules" can be configured to determine how messages with a given score are handled. For example, messages deemed to be spam might be rejected or quarantined, or a note may be added to the message's subject line or header field. The array of options caters to aggressive administrators who want to beat back all spam, as well as cautious ones looking to guard against false positives. Ultimately, MailSite users hold the power to manage their own inboxes and adjust spam management parameters individually. Anti-Virus controls are handled in much the same way.
Rockliffe provides unusually coherent documentation for MailSite, a real perk for those delving deep into the software. The thorough context-based help rounds out a stable, focused e-mail server keeping up with the times and the arms race between e-mail users and e-mail abusers.
Pros: Easy management; Strong anti-spam and anti-virus defenses; Solid documentation
Cons: Requires Microsoft IIS; Costly subscriptions for anti-spam and anti-virus updates
Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 3/18/2004
Original Review Version: 6.0.9