Product Review: Message Logic MLArchiver
Product: Message Logic MLArchiver
Product Homepage: click here
Free Trial: click here
One of the hot button issues for messaging administrators has long been compliance. Microsoft Exchange Server includes the ability to capture copies of messages and to perform eDiscovery if necessary. However, the interface used for doing so might not be adequate for every situation. Thankfully, there are third party products available for message archiving, analytics, and eDiscovery. One such product is MLArchiver version 5 from Message Logic.
MLArchiver provides a more comprehensive interface than the one used for eDiscovery in Exchange Server 2013. The software can be especially helpful if your organization is running a light weight messaging application or an older version of Exchange Server.
The Deployment Process
MLArchiver is designed to be deployed as a virtual appliance, and Message Logic provides versions for both VMware and Hyper-V. Out of curiosity, I downloaded both versions. The VMware version came as a 3.31 GB ZIP file, which contained an OVF, an MF, and a VMDK file.
It is worth noting that MLArchiver is certified by VMware as being VMware Ready. The company has also earned the distinction of being vCloud Air certified.
The Hyper-V version of MLArchiver consisted of a 2.84 GB ZIP file, which contained a virtual machine configuration file (in XML format) and a VHDX file.
Even though Hyper-V is normally my hypervisor of choice, I decided to base my review on the VMware version of the product because of the VMware certifications that the product had earned.
Deploying the software couldn’t have been any easier. I simply opened the vSphere Client and selected the Deploy OVF Template command from the File menu, and the virtual machine was imported. In case you are wondering, the virtual appliance uses a 64-bit version of CentOS and consumes two vCPUs and 4 GB of memory. The virtual appliance only consumed roughly about 30 GB of storage space within my datastore. It is worth noting that according to the configuration guide, the hardware recommendations increase based on the number of users who are sending and receiving mail. For example, 8 GB of RAM is required for supporting 100 users, while 16 GB of RAM will accommodate up to 5000 users. You can see the default virtual machine summary in Figure A.
Figure A: The virtual appliance has somewhat modest hardware requirements.
The Configuration Process
Normally when I write a software review, I like to try to get the product up and running without referring to the documentation. That way, I can get a feel for how easy the software is to use. In this particular case however, I went ahead and used the Configuration Guide as I worked through the initial configuration. I was a bit pressed for time and wanted to make sure that I got the configuration right on the first try.
The configuration process consisted of working through a wizard like series of six screens. The configuration process was very easy and I’m sure that I could have done it without the documentation (assuming that I had been given the default password ahead of time). Incidentally, the Configuration Guide is well written, easy to follow, and includes screen captures to walk you through the process.
Although I chose to deploy the software within a VMware virtual machine, I was pleased to see that the appliance gave me some other options. The software can be deployed to a virtual machine, a dedicated server, or to an Amazon or Microsoft Azure cloud.
Working with MLArchiver
Once I had finished configuring the virtual appliance, I logged into the appliance for the first time. Upon doing so, I was presented with the license screen. Although there is nothing remarkable on that particular screen, I have to admit that the cleanliness of the user interface immediately caught my attention.
Once I had accepted the license agreement, there was a little bit more configuration work that needed to be done. Specifically, I had to provide the appliance with the E-mail address of my mail server and I had to make sure that the Receiver service was running. These steps were easy enough to accomplish, but I definitely needed the documentation in order to get through the process.
Next, I had to configure my mail server to deliver copies of messages to MLArchiver. For the purposes of this review, I used Exchange Server 2013. In Exchange Server environments, the Journaling feature is used to capture message copies.
When it came time to configure my mail server, I clicked on a link within the configuration guide that was supposed to describe the configuration process in detail (http://www.messagelogic.net/support). However, when I visited the page and clicked on the Exchange Server option, the Exchange Server specific instructions were for Exchange 2007 and 2010 (http://www.messagelogic.net/media/configuration-docs/Microsoft%20Exchange%20-%20SMTP.pdf).
To make a long story short, I was able to make MLArchiver work with Exchange Server 2013. I used the directions as general guidance for the tasks that needed to be performed. Thankfully, I know my way around Exchange Server 2013, so I was able to properly configure the server even though I did not have step by step instructions. If you have Exchange Server 2013 in your environment, it would probably be worth asking Message Logic if they have any Exchange 2013 specific instructions. It is entirely possible that directions exist, and I simply was not provided with them. The reason why I recommend asking for the directions is because configuring Exchange 2013 involved delving into PowerShell to define a remote domain.
Working with MLArchiver
Since MLArchiver is designed to allow for eDiscovery, I decided to begin my evaluation on the Search tab, which you can see in Figure B. The Recent Messages option was great for verifying that the software was collecting messages the way that it was supposed to.
Figure B: The Recent Messages tab is good for verifying functionality.
While I was at it, I checked out the Basic and Advanced Search, both of which were completely intuitive. The basic search allows you to search by sender, recipient, date range, category, and keyword. The advanced search adds the ability to search on general tags and hold tags, as well as to view things like top senders and top recipients. You can see an example of an advanced search in Figure C.
Figure C: This is what an advanced search looks like.
After I checked out the Search options, I moved on to Analytics. The Analytics section contains a series of search engines. What makes these searches different is that they are geared toward finding specific types of data. For example, you can search for personal e-mail usage, swear words, credit card numbers, and the list goes on and on.
In addition to the various types of searches that you can perform, the software offers other functionality. For instance, there is an option that allows supervisors in financial firms to monitor trading related messaging. The software also has the ability to apply legal holds, tagging, and to set retention policies.
As I experimented with the product’s various features, I found it to have a very nice alerting mechanism. In fact, messages can be automatically sent to end users as an automated response to messages that they have sent or received. You can see some built in alarm and alert messages in Figure D, and the software allows you to easily create custom alerts and messages.
Figure D: These are some of the built in alarm and alert messages.
One of the big things that I wondered about when I started reviewing this product was what options I had for dealing with messages that had shown up in query results. As it turns out, you have a number of different options. You can read the messages on screen if you want. You also have the ability to send the messages to an authorized user through E-mail. I found this to be very nicely done. I didn’t even have to compose the message. All it took was a single click to send the messages. You can see what the messages look like in Figure E.
Figure E: Messages can be sent through E-Mail.
In addition, the software allows you to download a zip file containing the messages or you can download a compliance report. The compliance report is an excel spreadsheet containing statistics related to the messages that were revealed by the query. You can see what the report looks like in Figure F.
Figure F: This is a compliance report.
At first it is easy to dismiss the report as being too lightweight, but take a look at the bottom of the screen capture above. The spreadsheet contains a number of worksheets, each of which provide granular detail about the messages. For instance, you can see how many times the messages have been viewed, forwarded, etc.
It has become customary to rate the products that I review for this site on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Overall, I was impressed with MLArchiver. Admittedly it took some work to make it work with Exchange Server 2013, but once I had the configuration working the software performed flawlessly. I also found the interface to be clean and easy to use once I got used to the concept of dragging droplets into a table to perform a search. I am giving Message Logic MLArchiver version 5 a VirtualizationAdmin.com Gold Award with a rating of 4.8 out of 5.
VirtualizationAdmin.com Rating 4.8/5