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Going With the Flow




Visnetic MailFlow: Ticket-based e-mail response management system.

MailFlow that is. VisNetic MailFlow is an inexpensive and easy-to-use ticket-based e-mail response management system. As its name implies, MailFlow is built around the concept of managing the flow of incoming messages.

Ticket-based e-mail response management systems are an increasingly popular way for organizations of all sizes to improve the customer support experience, both for the customer and the organization. A “ticket” describes an exchange between a client and an organization that may encompass one or many messages. Tickets can be formally opened or closed as a way to track which exchanges are resolved and which are not. Tickets can be assigned to particular agents within an organization based on software rules, such as the e-mail addresses by the client (e.g., [email protected] or [email protected]). Besides providing a consistent line of communication between client and organization, tickets produce a “paper trail” that managers can audit or oversee.

VisNetic MailFlow is just such a system. It essentially is deployed as a specialized Webmail application. Running on a Windows-based server in conjunction with an existing Web server, such as Microsoft IIS, users inside an organization connect to MailFlow using Internet Explorer.

On the server, the MailFlow product is a 5 MB download, assuming a supported database product, such as MS SQL Server or MSDE 7 or 2000, is installed. Alternatively, you can download a 32 MB version that includes the free MSDE 2000 lightweight database engine. Larger installations should use Microsoft’s commercial SQL Server engine for enterprise performance. MailFlow itself occupies a small 10 MB footprint on disk, but, of course, the supporting database could grow large from activity.

MailFlow installs quickly with a standard InstallShield wizard, asking a few basic questions to set up the Administrator account and e-mail access parameters. Because MailFlow is not an e-mail server itself, it is designed to retrieve messages from any standard POP3 server, which an organization can host internally or rely on an ISP. Likewise, MailFlow sends outgoing mail through any standard SMTP relay which, again, may be hosted internally or rely on an ISP. This lightweight design is especially friendly to small organizations that may not have the resources to manage their own mail server but that want the benefits of an e-mail response management system.

Aside from managing some nuts-and-bolts database connection details, MailFlow is managed entirely through Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, the rich MailFlow interface does not function correctly under alternative Web browsers like Firefox. Depending on your privilege level, the MailFlow interface will show a range of options, from basic ticket management for agents, to full configuration and administration pages for admins.

Aptly named, MailFlow is built around the concept of managing the flow of incoming messages. Users can create ticketboxes to be associated with organization e-mail addresses. For example, all messages sent to [email protected] can be routed into a ticketbox called “Sales.” Users in the MailFlow system are then given access to one or more ticketboxes, so that user “Joe” may access the Sales ticketbox, among others. Each ticket is presented as a series of one or more messages between client and organization. If appropriate, agents can reassign tickets to other ticketboxes, effectively passing groups of messages to another agent.

Ticketboxes can be configured with auto-response messages that MailFlow calls “standard responses.” These responses provide users with an immediate confirmation of receipt, and reassuring instructions of what will happen next (or where they can turn for more help). A thorough search facility supports finding tickets by flow criteria, date, and message content.

Both incoming and outgoing messages can be scanned for viruses using Kaspersky Labs’ optional AntiVirus plug-in. Note that anti-virus protection requires additional licensing fees and works only with the Kaspersky Labs plug-in.

For organization managers, MailFlow offers a complete set of reporting tools. You can quickly generate data on ticket activity, how many tickets are open vs. closed, average response times from agents to clients, busiest activity periods, and more.

MailFlow administrators can manage system logs and apply security. Besides creating and managing agents (users) and their activity levels, you can restrict connections to MailFlow to black- or white-listed IP addresses. Administrators can create ticketboxes along with templates for headers and footers.

Organizations looking for a Windows-based turnkey e-mail response management software that easily interfaces with any e-mail server will find much to like about VisNetic MailFlow.

Pros: Fast out-of-the-box functionality; Rich and intuitive management interface; Flexible deployment against any e-mail server back end.
Cons: Lacks bundled Web server; Supports Internet Explorer clients only; Limited to one anti-virus vendor.

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 2/22/2006
Original Review Version: 3.0.1.2

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