Pros: Accurate in identifying spam, easy to set up and maintain, good support
Cons: Very expensive if you are buying outside USA and Canada.
For many of us nowadays opening up an e-mail means being overrun with spam messages everything from cheap meds, best stock picks, cheap watch replicas, male enhancement products, casino gambling, list just keeps going on and on.
And it does not matter what you do, the bad guys seem to be at least step ahead of anything you come up with to try to stop them. It even appears that some of those messages are coming from yourself, or no one at all. But you know this is not so.
So where those messages are coming from.
Well, the answer is simple, bad guys are good in forging e-mail so on surface it appears like it is coming from elsewhere or nowhere.
The widely used e-mail software such as Outlook Express is horrible in stopping and filtering the spam to the point where many people dont bother. Your block list keeps getting larger and larger but the spam just keeps coming.
If you are a home consumer with few e-mail accounts the Anti-virus/Spyware/Spam software list is quite extensive. My personal favorite is F-Secure Anti-Virus that can detect not only viruses but also Spyware and spam.
However if you are experiencing spam in business environment and you are managing multiple users with multiple e-mail accounts, you may find yourself having nightmares about fighting spam. If you are to aggressive with filtering your end-users will complain that they are missing on legitimate e-mail, if you are to loose with filtering they will complain that you do not do enough to stop it.
Barracuda Spam Firewall
Barracuda Networks Spam Firewall is sophisticated appliance that is an answer to your spam problems. Intercepting e-mail as it comes to your server and examining it on a very deep level, the unit is able to accurately detect and stop 99% plus of the incoming spam. And where there is doubt if the message is the spam or not, you always have an option of enabling per user quarantine that will keep the copy of the message in a safe area within the unit itself while notifying the end-user and allowing them to examine the message and decide if they want to accept it or trash it.
The quarantine option described above is available with the Spam Firewall 300 or higher. So while volume of accounts and e-mails may be low enough to warrant the 200 model, I always recommend going with the 300 model.
Peek under the hood.
The unit itself is based on Linux backbone with Barracudas implementation of Spam Assassin for spam analysis, Spamhaus DNSBL for updated spammer list, ClamAV for Anti Virus and few other GPL software packages.
While one can certainly figure out what software forms the core of the Barracuda Networks Spam Firewall, many people have tried and failed. So what makes Barracuda any different?
First of all, the Spam Assassin is a wonderful tool to catch spam with many plug ins but you need to constantly fine tune it and do it quickly to stay on top of the game. Barracuda Networks has some 50 000+ units deployed worldwide with a big chunk of that number being Spam Firewall. Those units together with their own network of honey pots (unadvertised e-mail addresses or addresses that are clearly stated to be the spam traps) give Barracuda Networks very accurate and early insight of what bad guys are up to. In turn, Barracuda Networks through their Barracuda Central HQ will release updates to train unit to recognize threats and push those updates onto your Spam Firewall unit on hourly basis. This service forms the core of their Energize Updates which is a core of their ability to be this highly accurate and as such is a yearly mandatory subscription service that has to be kept active and up to date else you own yourself a brick that will do very little to stop the spam.
To fully understand how the unit works you can further look at the data sheet available from: http://www.barracudanetworks.ca/download/barracuda-spam-firewall-datasheet.pdf
or if you really want to see what the unit can do for you, request a 30-day on site evaluation of the hardware without any risk rather than agreeing to cover for shipping charges.
Asides from the very high accuracy and availability of advanced features such as per-user quarantine, hardware fail over bypass (if the unit goes down the bypass will let mail flow although unfiltered) and few others, the best feature I like about the Barracuda Spam Firewall is their no-limit policy. While competitor products charge per-user fee, the Spam Firewall (with the exception of the 100 model which is capped at 50 users) has no cap on number of users or domains you can filter.
Second benefit I find great to mention is a very generous upgrade program Barracuda Networks has. Regardless how old your unit is if you ever outgrow it, those folks will buy it back and you will receive at least 25% of what you pay towards the purchase of the larger unit.
Instant Replacement. While the primary purpose of this warranty upgrade is to expedite replacement of the failed unit by bypassing the RMA repair and instead replacing the entire unit on the first sign of the confirmed hardware failure, I find the more benefit in what happens after the expiry of the original manufacturers warranty. If you have the Instant Replacement coverage active you will get the new unit regardless of the age of your current unit or how many times you had used it before. So you technically never have to worry about budgeting for the replacement unit as your unit will never permanently fail (or if it does you get another one).
As mentioned earlier, if you want to see how the unit works, I would definitely recommend getting the 30-day on site trial. Not only do you pay nothing for the hardware but all services including the Energize Updates and Instant Replacement are free as well if you decide not to keep it. And since those folks really go out of the way to make sure you will be treated the right way, they will ship you not the demo unit but the brand new unit that you will end up keeping if you decide to get it after 30-day trial so you loose no settings or configuration you entered.
Configuring the unit is very simple and in most cases can be done in about an hour or less for basic settings. You may want to additionally customize some settings to your liking but if you take time to do the setup properly the unit will do 95%+ of the work for you on auto-pilot therefore requiring very little babysitting.
Courteous support. Even within the trial if you ever have any questions the answer is usually a phone call away. And with the ability of the tech support to remotely connect and troubleshoot the unit with your permission, most of issues are fixed on the fly (or the unit will be replaced if you have the Instant Replacement coverage, else it will be repaired and shipped back to you).
I had set up several units myself from the small 100 to the big 800 and 900 and I cannot recall one instance where I had to send the unit back because it could not do the work I wanted it.
While you can order the hardware from Barracuda Networks directly many of their partner re-sellers will sell it cheaper so feel free to shop around. I order my units from http://www.barracudanetworks.ca because those guys are Diamond Partners of Barracuda Networks (they are not the Barracuda Networks though, the manufacturers web site is http://www.barracudanetworks.com). While I found few places that may sell it cheaper I find above also very knowledgeable and friendly and in many cases I go through them for any issues I have with the hardware, if they cannot help me they usually direct me to Barracuda Tech Support. Coincidently those folks also run the managed service called CudaMail (http://www.CudaMail.com) that uses Barracuda Spam Firewall architecture but where you need not to purchase the hardware (you use their hardware). If you cannot afford to buy or prefer not to manage the hardware yourself, this is a way to go.
One thing I do not like about Barracuda Networks is the fact that they do not tell you what hardware they use for their units. I am not sure what philosophy behind this is but if anyone knows the CPU, mainboard and other components they use itll be useful information to share.
Secondly, if you ever decide to discontinue using the hardware and want to sell it or even give it away, the ownership is not transferable and the unit will be very much useless to the other person. I had seen those units being advertised cheap second hand and was tempted to order few while back not knowing better (but was lucky to call and ask first, the friendly sales engineer with European accent that I was transferred to when I contacted them through the above partners was very helpful and told me this from the start therefore saving me bunch of money- thank you very much.
I took the extra effort to check with Barracuda Networks as well just to be the safe and was confirmed that the unit cannot be resold, was not quite explained why or at least I could not understand their reason but this seems to be the case.
However the greatest complaint I hear is from people outside of USA and Canada since there are two versions of the hardware (although not listed clearly on either sites or anywhere else I looked) the North American and International version. While almost identical (both are built on same platform) the international version for some strange reason is priced almost double its domestic cousin is worth. So on a final note I will say this, if you are in Canada or USA this is great unit to try and use, if you are planning to deploy the hardware outside those two countries you may want to either look elsewhere or deploy the unit inside one of USA or Canada located data centers and have MX records pointed to it (alternative way of setting the unit versus redirecting the inbound traffic entering on the port 25 that is usually used if both your e-mail server and spam filter are physically residing at the same location).
Looking at the overall performance and results (immediate reduction of spam by 90% + within first few days and 99%+ shortly after you finish training the custom Bayesian filters) and the ease of the setting and running the hardware thereafter, make Barracuda Spam Firewall one of my favorite solutions to curb the level of the spam within the corporate environment. But as they say the proof is in the pudding or seeing is believing so I strongly recommend trying the unit on-site for 30 days and making your final judgment thereafter. You will be surprised what you will see.