Product Review: Netmail Email Management Platform 5.3

Product: Netmail Email Management Platform 5.3

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Introduction

Exchange On-Premise and Exchange Online have a solid number of built-in features, but there are plenty of reasons to look to third-party solutions for bolt-on enhancements. Clear examples where you might want to do this include the need for a monitoring solution, an archive solution and enhanced security. While there are many options available, one that is quite appealing both with regard to versatility and price-point is Netmail’s Email Management Platform.

As an on-premise software solution, Netmail fills a need that organizations have when they want an all-in-one solution but want to provide their own on-premise hardware for it and simply want the software to make it happen. Netmail used to be provided as a full install software solution, but currently, it is also provided as VMs that can be snapped into your existing environment (on-premise or cloud-based) and utilized alongside your email solution (for Exchange 2007-2013 flavors, Office 365 and even GroupWise). The value here is clearly seen when you consider the many features offered with a reasonable price point. Let’s consider the features included in the Netmail Email Management Platform.

Netmail 5.3 Features

Netmail offers a cohesive solution that typically resides on-premise either installed directly on bare metal or within virtual machines and covers the following key enterprise grade email management needs:

Monitor: Offered as a stand-alone piece and as part of the platform, the monitoring features provided by Netmail are quite polished and smooth visually, as you can partially see from Figure 1 below. The monitoring aspects of Netmail utilize PowerShell commands to obtain key information and provide that onscreen.

Archive: The Netmail solution, unlike hardware/software fusion based archive solutions, offers a software-only solution for email archiving and discovery. Once installed and configured within your environment, you have the ability to store, manage and discover email messages and attachments within your organization. Not tied to any databases the netmail XML based object storage is a solid option for long term retention, With regulatory compliance concerns clearly in mind by Netmail, the solution allows administrators to perform case management, full archive search, retrieval and export of email and documents to assist with requested litigation support or internal investigation data.

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Figure 1:
Netmail monitoring through the platform

Secure: Netmail provides an additional layer of security over what Exchange offers out of the box through policy-based anti-spam, anti-malware, content filtering, data leak prevention and encryption.

Additional built in features for administrators include an encryptions piece to secure both incoming and outgoing email as well as a file detachment piece that reduces storage bloat by removing large email attachments.

End users are provided with a variety of ways to access their email archive, thus reducing their need to reach out to admins when looking for message retrieval. End-users can access their email through a Netmail Search website that allows them to search and locate their message to read on-screen, forward it, or print it… without providing the added ability to delete the message (which would hinder discovery). In addition, end-users can locate their email through the Outlook client, once an add-on is installed which allows them to access the Netmail Search site through Outlook directly (shown in Figure 2), as well as through Outlook Web App (OWA).

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Figure 2:
Accessing Netmail Search through Outlook

Implementing and Configuring the Netmail Email Management Platform

To implement the full platform requires the addition of 3 new servers (most likely VMs) to your environment. These include the Netmail Archive server, Netmail Index server and the Netmail Secure server. They each have their own prerequisites, which can be located here. You can see from the prerequisites that you’ll want to allocate the appropriate number of processor cores and memory to each server, plus you’ll have to consider the storage requirements to ensure adequate size and performance for your particular organization.

Through the Knowledge Base provided, which is actually pretty extensive and quite thorough, You can work your way through a deployment interview so that you are provided with the exact pieces and steps required to get Netmail up and running in your environment. There is also a Quickstart card to help you move things along a bit.

Personally, I found the install and configuration process a bit pedantic. There was nothing out of the ordinary but there were a grouping of pre-installation tasks to prepare your Exchange environment (many of which involved the creation of new role assignments and new permission settings and so forth). All of this is mapped out clearly but still requires a bit of time to get up and running. While the Archive and Index servers are running Server 2012 R2, the Secure server required Linux familiarity, although again, the steps are clearly mapped out. After reviewing the process, considering the excessive work involved I would recommend you have Netmail Support assist with the install/configuration process. Watching one of their techs perform the full install and configuration (once the prerequisites were already installed) it took under an hour to get the entire platform online. That was fantastic. So, in addition to being quite pleased with their online KB support, I found their hands-on support to be top notch.

Once up and running now the deeper side to configuration begins. You complete the setup of the platform through a web-based portal connection. This includes providing key information to set up the platform, like accepting the license agreement. You have to configure an administrative cluster and work through the process of setting up the node and then domain configuration (shown in Figure 3), cluster configuration and policy setup. It sounds more complicated than it is. You’re simply working through the web-based console, answering questions as you go to get your archive and index services setup.

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Figure 3:
Netmail Archive domain configuration

Once the platform is up and running you can begin the process of configuration. The interface for configuration is relatively easy to work with. For example, to configure an archive job you can see the settings in Figure 4 where you establish the settings, run the job (unless on a schedule), monitor the job as it is running and use the same interface to see reporting features of the job once it has run and even download the report once complete.

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Figure 4:
Configuring an archive job to run

The report, shown in Figure 5, helps you to see an at-a-glance view of the archive with an easy to see look at errors that may have occurred. This is incredibly helpful to track down problems within your archive process.

Beyond the archive/index/discovery portion of the platform, there are also a variety of policies you can configure to assist with added security. Note in Figure 6 that you can expand out categories within the UI and configure/enable/disable policy settings (and there are many of them to choose from) to expand upon the existing built-in security features for your email environment.

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Figure 5:
Viewing the web-based report for an archive job that has completed

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Figure 6:
Working with security policy settings

Functionality and Pricing

From a functionality perspective I found the Netmail solution to be quite robust, offering a variety of key pieces for email management that are essential when considering modern requirements to archive and discover data, keep it as secure as possible and monitor the entire environment. The UI is easy to work with and the monitoring piece is quite appealing visually.

Where I felt Netmail is in need of modernizing is in its lack of a cloud based solution. Offering Netmail as a service rather than a server-side solution that requires a good amount of hardware, setup and configuration to get things up and running may be prohibitive as we see a greater move to the cloud. Netmail assures me they are considering all options going forward but also reminds us that while all the hype is on the cloud, 85% of Exchange is still run on-premise and a solid number of customers want their archive to be handled in-house, on personal hardware, not in the cloud.

From a price perspective, the pricing is handled by user and year. The full platform is $12/user/year on a 3 year deal. If purchasing for a single year at a time it’s $16/user/year. Support is an added fee that ranges from $1000 to $20,000 per year depending on the needs of the customers. Learn more about support pricing structure here.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I find Netmail’s Email Management Platform v5.3 to be a solid on-premise solution for both on-prem and cloud (Office 365) email security, archive and monitoring. In a world that requires ever vigilant security barriers it’s smart to avoid the built-in-only features of your email solution. And with an ever increasing need for regulatory compliance based, primarily, on communication and data discovery, having a solid archive is key as well. A monitoring element is a nice bonus on top of the other parts to the platform. I believe in all-in-one solutions, so long as they shine within each individual feature category the solution appears to support. In many cases they do not equally excel, but I believe Netmail, as a whole, was solid in this regard.

I did find the setup to be more involved than I typically prefer to deal with. However, the support provided through both online KB and support personnel make up for that along with the reasonable price-point. In the end you have a robust solution at a reasonable price with a great team backing up their product. A win all around.

MSExchange.org Rating 4.0/5

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Learn more about Netmail Email Management Platform 5.3 or download a free trial.

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