Disclosure – The author has been compensated to provide an honest opinion of the product in this review. You can read our full disclosure statement here.
Despite all the talk in the industry about moving services to the cloud most clients that I work with still use an on-premise email security server for protecting their Exchange servers.
modusGate by Vircom is an email security product that includes anti-spam and anti-virus protection, as well as a range of other useful security and administrative features that are configurable to an impressive depth.
For this review I installed modusGate on a Windows Server 2008 32-bit server running in my virtual test lab environment. Virtualizing modusGate is supported but it can also run comfortably on low-spec servers for smaller deployments.
One of the first things I like to do with new software is just run the installer to see how it handles pre-requisites. So I was immediately pleased to see the modusGate installer offer to install missing system requirements for me.
After the license agreement there is the usual Standard and Custom install options. I allowed the Standard installation to run and chose to use SQL Express, but there is also the option to use a SQL Server if you have one available in your network.
After the installation wizard completed a HTML page opened with the next steps to take to configure modusGate.
Configuring modusGate Email Routing
Adding routes for your email domains to the modusGate server is fairly simple thanks to a wizard.
I thought a few of the settings it needed were a little ambiguous in their meaning but the documentation quickly cleared up my confusion and kept me moving. But anyone with some basic understanding of LDAP and Active Directory would have no trouble with this process.
Although modusGate supports Exchange Server 2010 it only displays Exchange 2007 as an option for configuring mail routing. It does work fine though and a later configuration screen includes Exchange 2010 in the list.
The only issue I encountered during setup was the IP address I specified for a domain controller somehow switched back to the IP of the Exchange server. Initially this meant that test emails didn’t work but once I corrected the IP address it began working correctly.
Configuring modusGate Protection
modusGate comes with all of the protection features that you want to see in an email security product such as RBL filtering, Sender Reputation, and dictionary attack prevention, as well as whitelisting options for trusted IP addresses and senders.
Anti-virus/malware protection is also built-in to modusGate.
Although a few settings need to be enabled and configured by the administrator most of the sensible protection options for spam and malware are turned on by default. So modusGate will begin protecting your environment immediately, but also has plenty of options for tuning and tweaking the protection to suit the unique characteristics of your organization’s email.
One other thing I’ll mention is the neat Smail utility that Vircom provides for testing email traffic to the modusGate server. Just a simple tool that will help a lot of administrators who don’t know how to use Telnet to test SMTP, and for those that do know it is a lot faster using Vircom’s tool anyway.
I also like that modusGate includes a feature for encrypting email in transit. Email encryption between specific networks is something that several customers I’ve worked with in the past have wanted, so that they can securely transmit sensitive email between trusted partners. On more than one occasion the limitations of a particular email server or security product at one end or the other has prevented this from being deployed.
modusGate Web Reporting
In my strong opinion good reporting capabilities are a must have for any email security product. modusGate covers this off nicely with a web reporting interface that comes with a series of useful standard reports.
You can also have reports emailed to people on a scheduled basis which is a good way to distribute email security reports to non-administrators.
modusGate and directQuarantine
A challenge for IT departments when implementing an email security product is to balance the protection of the email environment with the need to reduce false positives. When IT administrators are burdened with quarantine management it can create problems for the business – the users do not realize they haven’t received an important email, and when they finally do realize it then takes more time for the IT administrators to respond and release the item from quarantine.
End user quarantine access is the solution to this problem. modusGate does come with a web interface for end user quarantine, as well as scheduled email notifications to alert end users about quarantined items. But these are still not the best solution.
So Vircom has developed a new feature for modusGate called directQuarantine, which installs as an Outlook add-in and gives the end user simpler and more immediate control of their quarantine.
Deploying the add-in was quite simple thanks to Vircom providing a surprisingly detailed guide for deploying via GPO. Some vendors simply provide the MSI files and leave you to it, which is not good for administrators who aren’t experienced in automating software installation.
I’ve worked with a lot of different email security products, and overall I found modusGate to be quite easy to install, configure and administer. Like most products modusGate has its own unique take on administrative interfaces but I quickly became familiar with it.
I found the modusGate documentation to be actually quite good, a step above most other products out there. This is important because as I mentioned earlier most email security products have their own unique way of doing things, so having clear documentation is important.
The pricing for modusGate and directQuarantine make them both cost effective choices even for small businesses. And the different deployment models make modusGate scalable to large organizations as well.
I contacted Vircom Support once during my review and got a speedy response from a knowledgeable person.
Overall I would certainly recommend modusGate and directQuarantine for businesses who are looking for an email security product to protect their Exchange Server environment.
Disclosure: Vircom has been a paid advertiser on this website.