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Barracuda Networks Spam & Virus Firewall 300 review

Verdict

An appliance that’s good value, well featured, easy to deploy and munches spam at an impressive rate

Review Date: 30 Nov 2011

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £1,799 (£2,159 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

These days, SMBs have a huge choice of anti-spam solutions from which to choose. Barracuda’s Spam & Virus Firewall appliances stand out for their arsenal of messaging security measures, claimed detection accuracy and ease of deployment. Here we review the 300 model, designed to handle between 300 and 1,000 users – and licensing isn’t based on the user count.

The 300 is a 1U low-profile rack appliance that was very quiet during testing. For initial deployment you can connect a local monitor and keyboard, and run through a quick setup routine to provide an IP address, gateway and DNS settings.

Then it’s over to the web interface, where you provide the address of the mail server to which you want the appliance to route mail, and also to set up allowed recipient domains. You’ll need to route incoming mail to the appliance; this can be done with a firewall port-forwarding rule or by changing your DNS MX record.

We found the web interface simple to use, opening with a status screen showing bar charts of hourly and daily inbound and outbound mail statistics. These are colour-coded, making it easy to see what mail is being allowed, tagged, quarantined or blocked.

For inbound messages, Barracuda uses a simple spam-scoring system that can be adjusted as you go. However, behind this lies a 12-step spam-detection process that includes Bayesian algorithms, real-time blackhole lists, reverse DNS lookups, IP reputation analysis, content filtering, keyword blocking and intent analysis.

Barracuda Networks Spam & Virus Firewall 300

For content filtering, you can apply custom lists of banned keywords and sets of predefined patterns for credit card and social security numbers, although the latter are specific to the US. Barracuda also offers a free agent for Microsoft Exchange, extending antivirus scanning to internal mail.

The appliance maintains a message log, showing a complete list of all emails and how they were handled. From here, blocked messages can be delivered or added to a white-list, and the log exported to a CSV file. Other reporting features include top spam receivers or senders, viruses, blocked attachments and more. Reports can be run on demand, or scheduled and sent to a list of email addresses.

For performance testing, we set up the appliance to scan incoming live mail. Rather than use bogus samples of harvested spam, this allowed us to see how the device handled real-time threats.

We left the appliance scanning live mail on its default settings for more than a week and were impressed with the results. In total, it handled almost 1,300 messages, of which 631 were spam or mail with infected payloads. The appliance missed only five spam messages, giving it a detection rate of 99.2%. We asked for messages that were classed as possible spam and allowed through to be tagged; the appliance incorrectly marked only 17 messages, which shows a low false-positive rate as well.

Even after you’ve factored in the additional costs of the Energize Updates subscription, Barracuda’s Spam & Virus Firewall 300 is still pretty good value. It’s easy to deploy and delivers a superb spam detection rate straight out of the box.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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