BlackSpider’s services have performed well in our previous, more filtering-oriented tests. The company is focused on mail and web filtering, and unlike other services, it has no plans to offer long-term mail archival, claiming limited demand — surprising, but there are good arguments for separating email management from archiving.

Like others in the space, the firm plans a web proxy filtering service and has no immediate plans to offer instant messaging filtering, although it has IM filter technology in the pipeline.

BlackSpider operates six clusters, with a presence in the U.S. and across Europe. The service performed well in previous SC tests in 2004 and 2005. The company operates 100 percent through resellers, which occasionally rebrand the service. The service does not currently support TLS encryption, but this is currently being rolled out.

BlackSpider conducts one of the most comprehensive post-configuration checks we have seen. Support is good and the firm offers a variety of SLA options to customers, including a guarantee of 99.999 percent availability.

The admin interface is simple and effective. A dashboard view shows basic stats of mail volumes and spam/malware statistics. User groups are basic, but easily set up, with in- and outbound aliasing.

The service’s policy options are very good, with plenty of controls over attachments and message content. Custom lists of expressions can be configured — to identify confidential data leaving the company, for example. These are then available in the preconfigured reports showing a breakdown of triggered policies.

Quarantines and white- and blacklists can all be configured per user and group, and managed by the user through a web interface.

There are weekly “webex” online courses to train users in administration of the console, a nice touch.

Multiple administrators are allowed and a simple audit trail shows admin activity in the site, an essential facility that is adequately provided here.

We like BlackSpider’s service for its simplicity and elegant interface. The company is focused on what it does well: filtering and policy control, and has acquitted itself well in the previous technical tests as well as this more high-level view.