Category: Secure e-mail
Name of tool: PGP Version 8.0
Company name: PGP Inc.
Price: Free (limited features), $39 (personal), $65 (personal and mobile), $80 (one-year desktop subscription), $125 (one-year enterprise subscription) $310 (enterprise, perpetual license, upgrade insurance)
Platforms supported: Windows (97 and above), Mac OS X, Windows CE and Palm versions available
**** = Very cool, very useful
The old standard in secure e-mail has gotten much better.
Great integration with Outlook, Outlook Express and Eudora
Very easy to setup and use
New pricing scheme is complex
When I last reviewed PGP Version 7.0 about two years ago, the software was under the thumb of Network Associates and had some issues. Since then, the product has been liberated and is back in the hands of the faithful and original developers, and the new version is the easiest yet at encrypting messages. With this version, there is no excuse to run your e-mail life without this protection.
Added to PGP is support for Windows XP and Mac OS X, new Palm OS versions, and Lotus Notes and Novell Groupwise servers. It fully supports all versions of Outlook from 97 to XP and Versions 4 and 5 of Outlook Express, when they are used to connect to a POP/SMTP/IMAP e-mail server. About the only thing it doesn't support is older OS versions. Users running Windows 95 and Mac OS 9.x will have to stick with older PGP versions.
Included in the program are several modules that will be familiar to users of the earlier versions. There is PGPdisk, a disk encryption module that seems to work better than what I remember from earlier versions. There is PGPkeys, which is used to manage the encryption keys that are used for your account and all of your correspondents. Overall, Version 8.0 has been cleaned up and polished and just works well, especially the plug-ins for the e-mail clients. I tested both the Outlook and Outlook Express versions on both Windows 2000 and XP, and about the only issue I still had was that moving your private key between two computers (such as home and work machines) still took some effort, but not as much as in previous versions. Also, if you set up your software to automatically decrypt messages, you might have some problems if you receive e-mail with attachments that aren't encrypted. But these are minor points. The software makes it easy to send and receive encrypted e-mail and to post your public key on PGP's directory server.
About the only downside to the new PGP is its pricing structure, which will take some getting used to. There are still the free versions, but they are severely lacking. The free versions don't include the PGPdisk encryption module, nor do they have the plug-ins that work with the major e-mail client programs. That to me makes it worthwhile to pay for the software, since both modules are very useful.
As for the paid versions, there are several different pricing tiers. You can buy a one-year personal subscription license, which entitles you to all upgrades, support and bug fixes with that year. After that year, you will need to ante up for another subscription, and missing are Upgrade Insurance and Premium Support options. Finally, PGP Personal cannot be configured with PGP Admin, nor does it contain such enterprise features as support for Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes or Novell GroupWise.
Enterprise users will probably start with either the Perpetual or Enterprise Licenses. The former does not include upgrades or new feature releases, but it is good forever. To receive ongoing upgrades, Perpetual License holders must also purchase an Annual Upgrade Insurance License. The Enterprise License is designed for corporations that want to configure their own key servers and maintain their cryptographic infrastructure. Finally, Premium Support is also available for purchase separately. When you add up all these different fees, you could end up spending about $300 a seat for securing your e-mail in most enterprise settings. That is a lot of cash. But the benefits are worth it: This is finally e-mail encryption for the average office worker.
Strom-meter key: **** = Very cool, very useful
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool.
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.
About the author
David Strom is the technology editor for VARBusiness magazine. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant and corporate IT manager. Since 1995 he has written a weekly series of essays on Web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.