Monday, November 4, 2013

SpamBrella - a Postini and Google Aps alternative

In my quest to find a replacement to the debacle that is the Google Postini transition to Google Aps I evaluated a service from  You can review my previous blog posting for a detailed account of the issues I encountered in attempting to make the Google Aps solution work for my domains and my customer domains.  

Spam (Junk Email) is a serious problem and time waster.  In addition it can expose your systems to malware via links to untrusted websites that are sent in these junk email messages.  I believe every company has some sort of strategy for handling this problem.  

I have several requirements for spam filtering. 

  • A message center where users and administrators can manage their spam and filtering settings
  • Individualized white and black lists to block certain addresses and allow others through the filter
  • Significant support for multiple aliases to an email address
  • Timeliness and accuracy
  • The ability to allow me to become a reseller of the service if I should so desire
In my quest to resolve the significant issues I faced with the Postini transition I encountered a service offered by  I spoke with a very knowledgeable and friendly representative both in email and on the telephone.  I decided to try an evaluation of the service to see if it would correct my issues with Postini and meet my requirements.  Immediately I ran up against a limit with the number of aliases I had with my account but Spambrella easily provisioned my account to allow 50 aliases per user.  

The service works similarly to Postini offering both inbound and outbound filtering as well as email continuity (ability to check email via their servers even if your email server is down) and email archive.  Each of these comes at a price, but the pricing is very reasonable and largely comparable to Google Aps pricing.  One sets up their mail server addresses with Spambrella and then configures MX DNS records to point to specific spambrella mail servers positioned around the world.    A configurable daily (or two times a day) email is sent to the users detailing their held (quarantined) messages and the user can use links in the email to either login to the mail management console or release the specific email.  In addition users can simply login to the console and manage their settings and quarentined  email.  

I used exports of my Postini account and user settings to setup the initial settings at Spambrella.  The web based administrative interface is intuitive and attractive. 

Spambrella offers some additional features that no other service I encountered offers.  These are "greymail" blocking as well as link filtering.   Greymail should not be confused with greylisting that is offered by several ISP's and filtering services.  Greylisting is a strategy where by ip addresses that connect are initially denied a connection to the mail server.  Legitimate mailers will try the connection again later at which point the greylisting server will "whitelist" the ip address and allow the email through.    

Spambrella's Greymail blocking (which is optional)  allows you to block "greymail".  Most spam reported is actually greymail.  Somehow or other users end up on a mailing list for a company or product and this company sends advertising or other alerts to the subscribers.    Most of my spam complaints from users are actually greymail.   Spambrella offers an option to block this greymail by default.  The mail ends up in the users quarentine and can be released and the sending address whitelisted if desired.

Spambrella also offers a filtering of hyperlinks that are included in the email  They have partnered with McAfee for this offering and it is really interesting and beneficial.  Any hyperlinks in the email are replaced with a url that goes through McAfee.  The sites being visited are scanned against known malware and infected sites and the user is allowed through if all clear, or blocked if the site is infected with viruses or malware.  Unknown sites are scanned real time and their status is displayed so the user can decide if the visit is warranted or not.  For those administrators uncomfortable with links in email being replaced, the feature is optional.

In my evaluation period of the service, I found the support to be exceptional and the filtering to be first rate.  There were few false positives (Aside from greymail that we actually wanted to see) and virtual no spam making it through the system.  The quarantine summaries were easy to read and handle.  The end users had no complaints and the performance of the system was superior speed wise.

For businesses and users transitioning from Postini to Google Aps who are dissatisfied with the accuracy, feature set and stability of the Google platform and for those looking for junk mail filtering for the first time, I heartily recommend   

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