Article

Review: Spam Firewall a 'comfortable mid-sized sedan'

Tom Bowers, Contributor

Barracuda Spam Firewall
Barracuda Networks
Price: $1,399 (Model 200) up to $29,999 (Model 900)

If you are looking for a reasonable value for your antispam requirements, the Barracuda Spam Firewall appliance is a serviceable

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choice. It has the feel of a comfortable mid-sized sedan with adequate features and an easy per-appliance pricing model.

The firewall provides solid antispam capabilities and home-grown antivirus wrapped into a reasonable--albeit less than stellar--management package. The series features a line of five Linux appliances based on e-mail volume needs (we tested the mid-range 400 model).

The antispam system is basic first- and second-generation technology consisting of customizable whitelists, real-time blacklists and a Bayesian filter, which can be tuned for users/groups. Additionally, Barracuda boasts that its Intention Analysis system determines the intention of the sender, increasing the effectiveness of the system. In our testing, the firewall provided a mild increase in effectiveness--though, admittedly, we can't duplicate the volume of e-mail a corporate network sees on a daily basis. The system receives hourly antispam and AV updates.

Barracuda's proprietary AV engine, which leverages open-source technology, performed acceptably against standard viruses. However, with the sophistication of today's viruses, we would be concerned about any but a dedicated AV provider's ability to respond quickly in the face of fast-moving malware.

The Spam Firewall could use the kind of wizards or best-practices templates we've seen in other e-mail security appliances. Barracuda assumes that the admin is an antispam/antivirus specialist and knows exactly how to tune its box. The factory default is set to catch as much spam as possible, and you are expected to read through the documentation to find the best tuning methods. There is a solid online help system.

It would not take much for Barracuda to offer its customers the option of starting with industry best practices, or at least teaching them what to look for.

The administrative interface is simplistic and unrefined: block-like DOS-style interfaces, layered with drop-down menus. It's functional, but not very elegant, and was sometimes difficult to navigate.

The reporting was minimal, with perhaps only a half-dozen available report types; we would expect to see 20 or more types available with drill-down capabilities.

Reports can either be displayed on screen or received by e-mail. To get detailed reporting, we had to manually sift through the syslog via the browser or via a syslog server.

That said, Barracuda says a new version of the firm-ware, which was scheduled for release after our testing was completed, upgrades the administrative interface and reporting engines, allowing for more report types and export functions in CSV or XML formats.

The firewall has good clustering abilities and a centralized administration system for deploying multiple appliances in a large enterprise. The initial setup is easy, helped by an outstanding Quick Start.

Overall, this is a good basic box that is not as technologically savvy as others we've reviewed in this space. However, with Spam Firewall's per-appliance pricing, clustering capability and centralized administration, it makes for a solid value proposition.

This product review originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Information Security magazine.


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