MailFrontier was a messaging security company selling email gateway security software and appliances. In February 2006, it was acquired by SonicWall. SonicWall is another security company, best known for its firewall and Virtual Private Network (VPN) appliances. MailFrontier products were rebranded to SonicWall, including what is now called SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop (formerly MailFrontier Desktop, formerly MailFrontier Matador). SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop Version 188.8.131.5229 was installed and tested for this review on Windows Vista with Microsoft Office Outlook 2007.
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop is an Outlook plugin that provides anti-spam and anti-phishing functionality at the client level. With a combination of user input, challenge responses, and content filtering, SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop does a good job of keeping Outlook inboxes clear of spam. SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop is supported on Windows 2000 with Outlook Express 6.0, Outlook 2002 or 2003; on Windows XP with Outlook Express 6.0 or Outlook 2003 or 2007, or Windows Vista with Outlook 2003 or 2007. It really is an Outlook or Outlook Express solution only.
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop , at just under 7.5MB, installs smoothly as long as Outlook or Outlook Express are not running. The Wise installer passes through the typical screens including installation overview, license acknowledgment, and installation path. The installation offers five language options for the installation only; US English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. The License Agreement seems to be in English only. When the installation is completed, selecting the Finish button opens a browser windows to https://www.sonicwall.com/us/.
Opening Outlook after installing SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop initiates the First Run actions. A popup recommends allowing SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop to parse Sent Items and white list the recipients. SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop assumes that people you have emailed already represent addresses that are not likely spam and can be added to the Allowed People list. The Allow and Block lists and other user configured settings are important components of customization which increase the accuracy of anti-spam assessments. Users can even block based on the character set in the message body, including Asian and Middle eastern languages. In addition, SonicWall is leveraging its anti-spam experience in processing millions of messages a day into the filtering of email (through its Network Grid) for SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop. It’s dynamic and takes into account the constantly evolving efforts of spammers. User interaction also contributes to Network Grid.
Enterprises know that spam is best dealt with at the gateway and not passed through the network to the email client. SonicWall’s gateway appliances can use the Allow/Block lists from SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop to drop messages before they make it to Outlook. SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop can still be used on the client in corporate settings to capture spam that makes it through the gateway and incorporate user-specific preferences.
Price to Value (5 out of 5)
Overall, the cost of SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop is justified by stellar performance and the ease at which that is obtained.
Installation & Setup (5 out of 5)
The installation is easy and SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop starts working right away. Just a little configuration is required to improve on the initial anti-spam performance.
The uninstall was also very simple and complete through Add/Remove Programs.
In WindowsXP, the installation was available to both Outlook Express 6 and Outlook 2003/2007 without any additional configuration.
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop is limited to Outlook Express 6.0 and Outlook installations.
Immediately after installation, SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop opens the default browser to a welcome website at sonicwall.com without asking. This allows them to count installations for those connected to the internet when they run setup.
User Interface (4 out of 5)
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop adds a four-button Toolbar to Outlook which has a clear purpose. The Configuration Settings applet is an all-in-one UI with buttons on top for the different tabs. There are also some simple graphic reports that can visually reflect the effectiveness of the application.
The UI is consistent across supported versions. It looks and feels the same whether servicing Outlook Express 6 on XP or Outlook 2007 on Windows Vista. The screenshots below are taken from Outlook 2007 on Vista.
The Configuration Preferences applet tries to personalize things that sometimes are inanimate. “People” should really just be “Email Addresses” and “Companies” is represented only by “Domain Names.” An email that I block may or may not be from a person.
The sliders in the Messages tab of Configure Preferences give the impression of really granular control. However, they each only have 4 settings – 0, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 1.
Some SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop specific windows insist on remaining on top of all other windows. This is a little annoying if you want to let it work and look at another application.
Performance (4 out of 5)
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop didn’t take away from the overall performance of Outlook 2007 on Vista, which is not yet a perfect combination as it is. Ultimately, an anti-spam solution is measured on how well it keeps your inbox clean. SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop maintained an almost perfect record after a couple of days of adding “people,” “lists,” and “companies” to the Allow and Block lists. I also tried different settings for how aggressive SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop was with the different content filtering aspects of spam; sexual content, offensive language, get rich quick schemes, gambling, advertisements, and embedded images. This is administered from the Messages tab of the Configure preferences applet.
There are one click buttons on the toolbar to assign items as junk or not junk. If an item that is assigned as Junk is then assigned as Not Junk, it gets returned to the inbox of the default account. This is not helpful if the item was from a different account when Outlook is accessing multiple accounts.
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop forces Internet Message Access Protocol accounts to download more than just headers for the purposes of assessing content. As it does this more bandwidth is consumed and Outlook’s built-in junk mail filter gets first dibs on the email in assessing spam.
Security & Privacy (3 out of 5)
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop is a security product and it does effectively reduce user exposure to malicious content in email, especially phishing messages.
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop pioneered the Challenge Response concept for reducing spam. When companies started using this option, it was met with mixed results. When receiving an email from a new sender, SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop can send them a challenge message with the goal of ensuring they are a real person and the recipient should receive the message. This is a one time function for each new sender. The validation goes through SonicWall’s website. A sample URL taken from a challenge email is https://c.mailfrontier.net/a/en/c4273f428c/william%40mojavemediagroup.com. The software vendor will know who has sent a challenge response (if they use HTML email) and who responds correctly. On a personal note, if I am a prospective customer and got a challenge response email, I would look elsewhere. Thankfully, this feature is disabled by default.
Part of the success of SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop is based in learning from what users assign as spam. The grid is updated when a user manually assigns a message as Junk. While this is good for overall spam detection, it creates the opportunity for pattern recognition of a specific customer. In Outlook 2007 on Vista, I did not get the confirmation popup before a message fingerprint was sent to the Grid. Plus, when items are submitted to SonicWall to add to their overall spam experience Grid, those messages bypass the Sent Items folder. Finally, my home ISP, Cox.net, sent the message to SonicWall’s Grid back to me as spam.
Help & Support (5 out of 5)
I don’t foresee a need to engage full customer support for the SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop. SonicWall does have some content in their knowledge portal and forums for Anti-Spam Desktop. I’m not saying their customer support is specifically excellent, but rather the lack of a need for customer service is excellent.
SonicWall should expand the list of email clients that it can operate with. Windows Mail, which replaces Outlook Express in Vista, will be supported in an upcoming release undoubtedly. What about Entourage for the Mac, or Thunderbird for Linux?
A little more granular control for advanced users may be beneficial, including things like custom keywords and adding [possible spam] to the subject line.
I run Windows Vista in 64-bit on my laptop, but as of today, there is no 64-bit version of SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop.
Better management of multiple accounts in Outlook, perhaps even user control of different settings for each account.
Expanding localization efforts or adding languages for the interface. The language choices for the installation should at the least be extended to the product interface.
SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop (formerly MailFrontier) works. If you are using Outlook or Outlook Express and spam is an issue for you, SonicWall Anti-Spam Desktop should be a consideration. If you are an enterprise where a gateway product blocks most spam but there is still opportunity to improve results at the client level, than this product also has potential for you.