GCN Lab Review | IronPort C100 Email Security Appliance

IronPort C100 Email Security Appliance

Pros: Excellent value, no false positives, nice interface

Cons: Setup snags, spam protection issues

Price: $2,924

Spam protection: C+

Virus protection: A

Ease of setup: B-

Ease of maintenance: A+

Value: A+

We had an interesting problem setting up the IronPort C100, although it was more our fault than anything else. There are two network ports on the C100'not to make the C100 redundant, but more secure. One port is used to process mail and the other to administer the device. The ports sit on top of one another, and on our test unit they were not labeled. You're supposed to plug into the top port as part of the initial setup. We thought we did, but we didn't (the IronPort 'I' logo looks the same right side up or upside down, so we had the 1U device flipped in our rack).

Once that was fixed, we were able to use the Web interface and the proper port to continue the setup process. After reading license agreements as part of the setup process (it was the only appliance that required this step), we were please to find one of the best Web management interfaces in this review. For example, the system knew enough to warn us that when making changes that required a reboot, we'd lose our connections. It also alerted us in advance when we changed the appliance's IP address and needed to log back in to reconfigure our client.

The Web interface also provides a lot of information upon log-in. That data describes both the general health of the system, as well as the quantities and types of e-mail it's processing. Any trouble spots are immediately recognizable right from a splash screen, which is a huge advantage over most of the other appliances.

In our closed network tests, the C100 performed very well on viruses, catching 99.9 percent of all virus-laden e-mails. It also was one of only two devices that did not generate any false positives during the entire testing process.

Part of its nonexistent false-positive mark could also be the reason for its less-than-stellar spam protection in our tests. IronPort relies heavily on reputation filters, rather than signatures, to keep spam out, although you can buy it with a Symantec BrightMail module for added security.

Evidently some of our canned spam hadn't earned a poor reputation. The C100 caught just 963 of the 1,000 spam messages we sent'one of the worst performances in this review. The fact is, due to IronPort's unique blend of anti-spam technologies, we'd fully expect admins to improve on this performance through policies and other fine-tuning. But out of the box, the appliance wasn't the spam eater that other devices were.

The IronPort's $2,924 government price tag is the lowest in the review and presents a terrific value. The device is well suited to smaller agencies that can't afford to simply block spam without regard for false positives. The Food and Drug Administration, for instance, uses high-end IronPort devices because it can't actually block messages that have to do with prescription drugs (think Viagra messages). If you fit that description, you'd do well to spend time working with IronPort's reputation filters.

IronPort Systems Inc., San Bruno, Calif., (650) 989-6530, http://www.ironport.com

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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