Security

Review: SpamTitan server-side email filter

Businesses that need an easy-to-use and accurate spam filtering solution will find SpamTitan to be one of the best solutions on the market.

The quest for the perfect spam filtering software sometimes seems endless. Our business, running Exchange Server, receives from 125,000 to 200,000 messages per day and 99% or more of those are spam. We've tested numerous anti-spam solutions but most either let too many spam messages through to our inboxes or worse, flag messages as spam that aren't. Finally, however, we came across a product that gets it right. Here are the reasons we've settled on SpamTitan to do our primary server-side spam filtering.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: SpamTitan (Galway, Ireland)
  • Product: SpamTitan
  • Version: 4.16
  • Hardware Requirements: more than 500 users — Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent 2.5 GHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 40GB disk space
  • Operating System: Comes with its own operating system
  • Options: Comes in two versions: ISO (for installation directly on PC or Server) or SpamTitan for VMware (runs in a virtual machine on any computer running VMware Workstation or Server or the free VMware Player)
  • License types: single appliance, cluster appliance, cluster addition license
  • License terms: annual subscription; discounts for multi-year subscriptions
  • Price: based on number of users (mailboxes); $395 for 1 - 50 users, up to $4400 for 5000 users
  • Additional vendor information
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

Businesses that need an easy-to-use and accurate spam filtering solution that includes virus scanning of email will find SpamTitan to be one of the best solutions on the market. Whether you have a few users or thousands, it offers quick and easy setup, flexible configuration, and comprehensive reporting. You also get rock solid reliability and if you opt to run it in a VMware, disaster recovery is simple.

What problem does it solve?

Spam is a huge problem for most businesses; if it makes it to users' mailboxes, it results in lost productivity as they spend time dealing with it, and it can contain viruses that can infect the entire network and do untold damage. SpamTitan catches the spam before it ever reaches the users and uses two anti-virus engines, Kaspersky and ClamAV, to scan messages for malicious code. With white listing of individual email addresses or entire domains, you don't have to worry that messages coming from important colleagues, clients or partners will be inadvertently caught in the filters.

Standout features

  • Easy setup and maintenance: You can get SpamTitan up and running in less than an hour. Installation of SpamTitan software suite (which includes the BSD based operating system) on a physical computer or in a virtual machine is quick and simple, even if you have no UNIX experience. The instructions in the installation guide are straightforward and easy to follow.
  • Easy to use Web-based administration: SpamTitan's Web GUI uses a dashboard style layout that puts mini-reports and the most commonly performed tasks at your fingertips. Each setting option or field has its own Help button, explaining how to configure that setting so there is no need to search terms in a separate Help file.
  • High performance: Our testing showed that on our network, SpamTitan was able to handle over 1000 messages per minute with frontline content control/RBL disabled, or 2000-5000 messages per minute with these features enabled.
  • Multi-layered spam filtering with 98% spam detection: SpamTitan caught more spam on our network than any other product we tested. This is thanks to the many layers of filtering mechanisms it uses. These include SURBLs (lists of known spam domains), Bayesian analysis, keyword filtering, analyses of headers and the body text of messages, Sender Policy Framework (SPF), recipient verification, and scoring algorithms. You can create your own blacklists, as well.
  • Very low rate of false positives: The rate of false positives is lower than with most other products we've tried. You can almost completely eliminate false positives by creating your own whitelists. With the spam digest feature, users can see which of their messages were blocked and can release any that are not spam (without requiring administrative action). The mail transaction history  provides a record of all messages flagged as spam and their scores, and you can view detailed information about individual messages as well as the content, and choose to release them to the mailbox.
  • Content filtering: You can block attachments by file type or mime type and you can block renamed files, at both domain and user levels.
  • Reliability and stability: The stability and reliability of SpamTitan has been impressive. Over the year that we've used it, it has just worked. The virtual machine never needs to be rebooted. The program never crashes. Emailed reports are delivered like clockwork. The only time it's ever been down was due to hardware problems, and it was easy to move the VM to another physical computer.
  • Great scalability: As your business grows, SpamTitan will keep growing with you, because you have the ability to set up a multi-node cluster of SpamTitan appliances (physical or virtual), with load balancing and failover. There is no limit on the number of appliances in a cluster and the cluster nodes can be in different geographic locations.

What's wrong?

  • Interface complexity: While the Web-based interface is intuitive and easy to use for the most common tasks, the wealth of features and settings create a situation where it's sometime difficult to find some of the less commonly used settings.
  • Active Directory/LDAP integration: To use LDAP recipient verification, you need a thorough understanding of LDAP and information about the LDAP Server, query filter, search base, and so forth. Some products we've used can automate this process by querying the global catalog for this information to make it easier for administrators who have not mastered LDAP.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

SpamTitan was WindowsNetworking.com's Reader's Choice winner and has received outstanding reviews in SC Magazine and Bright Hub. It has received the Anti Spam Premium Checkmark certificate from West Coast Labs. These accolades are well deserved. The product provides many of the same features that appear in competing products that cost much more and offers the kind of value for the price that businesses need in today's economy. Small, medium and large organizations will find that SpamTitan is flexible enough, with an abundance of features that can be individually enabled or disabled, to meet all of their needs.

User rating

Have you encountered or used SpamTitan? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

Read our field-tested reviews of hardware and software in TechRepublic's Product Spotlight newsletter, delivered each Thursday. We explain who would use the product and describe what problem the product is designed to solve. Automatically sign up today!

Next Page (Photo Gallery) >>

About Kris Littlejohn

Kris Littlejohn grew up in a household of tech writers and has been playing with, building/disassembling, and writing about computers and other gadgets from an early age, including a number of articles for TechRepublic.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox