Product: Vircom modusGate 5.52
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Malware, viruses, spam… these are the things that keep an Exchange in a state of angst if the organization isn’t properly protected. The options available these days are plentiful but there have been some shifts from Microsoft with regard to what we have out-of-the-box with Exchange.
With the release of Exchange 2007 we saw a move toward server roles with an Edge Transport server serving to block spam. That role would evolve slightly with Exchange 2010 but hasn’t seen an update with Exchange 2013 just yet (perhaps one is coming with SP1 but I’ve heard it isn’t much to speak of). And the often paired up Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) solution with the Edge to provide anti-virus protection has been dropped as well. This has folks considering their options to ensure protection and they can either go with a cloud-based solution or continue to stay on-premise and attempt to work with Exchange anti-spam/virus offerings.(Note: the built-in Exchange 2013 malware filter is a v1 product and quite limited).
If remaining on-premise with a need for stronger security than what is built-in with Exchange, they might choose to work with an appliance, which now introduces more hardware into the mix, or go with a software-based solution like Vircom’s modusGate for Exchange. Note: If you want a cloud-based solution you might consider modusGateCloud.
I’ve worked with modusGate before, in fact back in 2010 I gave it the Silver award and called it a compelling solution that was a worthy product to protect your enterprise. Not only do I continue to feel that way but I’ve increased my approval rating for modusGate because I’ve seen some solid improvement with regard to documentation and overall ease of configuration that made the entire process of getting it set-up and running very clear and somewhat intuitive.
ModusGate combines anti-spam, anti-phishing and anti-virus protection to provide email security that is very customizable. In addition there are a wide array of management and monitoring tools that go well beyond a simple spam/virus filter offering. Here are some of the notable features:
Deployment and Integration: You can deploy this on Microsoft Windows Server running 2003 through 2012 R2 (including flavors of Small Business Server 2003-2011). Support for Exchange 2003-2013 as well as Lotus Domino, Group Wise and other SMTP service solutions is built-in. The solution can be installed on a VM and I personally had absolutely no difficulty installing and getting it set up quickly and easily for my Exchange environment.
Security: Vircom offers quite the cornucopia for security solutions including DNS Blacklists (DNSBL), IP based checking, Sender Reputation blocks, forbidden attachment blocking, virus and malware blocking (utilizing McAfee and/or Norman, a well-known and respected virus solution in Europe), trusted and blocked sender policies (for whitelist and blacklist protection), spam filtering, phishing filtering, message encryption and more (as you can see in Figure 1).
Figure 1: Security settings for modusGate
Monitoring and Reporting: There are a variety of different tools provided to configure and monitor the modusGate solution. For starters there is an administration tool that allows you to configure the entire solution directly which we discuss below. You also have several web based administration features that can be installed including a Quarantine site (where users can check their quarantined emails from the email filtering phase and determine if something was blocked that they prefer to release), a Web Monitor site, shown in Figure 2, (which provides a variety of reports and system health monitoring that is visually smooth and polished) and a Web Admin site (which may allow for simple user login for minor modifications or Administrative login for full administrative configuration options through the web interface).
Although the WebMail Quarantine site is a good option for end-users (as opposed to their having to wait on admins to release their email) Vircom offers a faster and better solution in the form of an Outlook add-on for end-users called directQuarantine. This allows them to get a quick, live view of the quarantined messages so they can make a determination on how to manage them. The deployment process for directQuarantine can be done through GPO or manually, with the end result that end-users can manage quarantined messages directly from Outlook, which is cool.
Figure 2: Web Monitor system health at a glance
Implementing the modusGate Solution
I found the installation and configuration of the modusGate solution to be quite easy. The install is a Next-Next-Finish install so long as you have everything in order with regard to the prerequisites. The most difficult consideration was whether to allow the install process to use SQL Express for the install or install SQL for the services to use. I went with the SQL Express for the sake of ease of deployment. Once the installation is complete you will be given a conclusion screen (shown in Figure 3) that shows the virtual directories that have been created.
Figure 3: The virtual directory information upon installation conclusion
Your next stop will be the easy to use modusGate Configuration Console (shown in Figure 4) where you can configure settings, stop/start/restart services, update anti-spam/virus definitions and configure advanced settings (along with validating your license key and obtaining support information).
Figure 4: The modusGate Configuration Console
I jumped into domain configuration so I could provide key information. You can see in Figure 5 that you just have to provide connection information for Exchange and Active Directory. You have the ability to validate your settings and save them.
Figure 5: Domain configuration settings
You can check the services running and the ports they utilize through the Services option of the modusGate consule (shown in Figure 6), as well as stop/start/restart the services.
Figure 6: Services options in the modusGate console
You can configure anti-spam/virus definition updates through the Security settings for the modusGate console (shown in Figure 7).
Figure 7: The Security options in the modusGate console
Once you have all your configuration settings complete you can launch the modusGate Advanced Administrator tool to further configure and work with all your settings. Here is where you can review the default settings for your modusGate and look for ways to tighten settings where you see fit or where your company policy dictates. Personally, I like the search capabilities they provide so you can specifically search for quarantined items like viruses, forbidden attachments and so forth, as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8: The modusGate Advanced Administrator tool
Another neat little tool they provide is called the Email Flow Diagnostic Tool (or Mail Flow Tester). This allows you to pick a server and email address and send spam to it. It’s a great way to test if the system is working. You can also send legitimate email to the mailbox to ensure mail is indeed flowing, however the spam is being blocked.
There were several great improvements to the modusGate solution that I truly appreciated reviewing it this time around. As mentioned, the documentation has been condensed and clarified. The installation process has been simplified and streamlined. The configuration was intuitive to a degree although I did refer to the documentation at times to grasp what some of the deeper settings did within the advanced configuration settings. The entire solution has received a graphical upgrade including the Web Monitor solution (which I truly liked in the previous flavor I reviewed but I also appreciate modernization of these tools). I consider the modusGate solution to be a solid option for security protection for your Exchange email environment.
MSExchange.org Rating 4.8/5