Sophos PureMessage 1.0 is a very simple product but its simplicity belies a good pedigree. The product installs easily, creating Active Directory users and groups for itself and setting up MSDE data sources without a hitch.

The documentation is spartan but this reflects the elegance of the solution. Spam is only part of it – the software covers anti-virus and a variety of mail filtering too.

The software is controlled from a single MMC-style console or web GUI and multiple servers can be managed from within the same environment. Default thresholds are realistic, but we were surprised to see the software automatically whitelist the local domain, a favorite spoof target for spammers.

Two thresholds can be set, designating mail as "suspect" or "spam" with delete and quarantine options for each. A web quarantine allows users to manage their own suspect mail. A useful digest of blocked mail can be sent every day with a link to the online quarantine.

Performance was unimpressive but within acceptable limits. Faced with the flood of test mail, the system slowed to a crawl but struggled through without any mail failures.

Support was disappointing, too. After hours (in the U.K.) we were greeted with a message stating we were "first in line" but, despite several attempts, no call was answered.

Reporting is basic, but perfectly adequate to keep an eye on overall trends and to monitor the success of spam-blocking.

For everyday use the product performs its job well. Actual spam detection was good, although the messages are not tagged with the spam score, so customization may be tricky. Sophos' anti-spam monitoring keeps track of ongoing spam campaigns and updates the product quickly. Combined with RBL support, PureMessage blocks spam with a high level of reliability.

The company is also active in selling its anti-spam products to OEM customers – Sophos anti-spam is appearing in an increasing number of other vendors' email security appliances and software solutions.

Going forward, the road map for PureMessage looks good.