Tumbleweed MailGate 2.2

  • Editors' rating
    7.3 Very good


  • Fast deployment
  • hardly any day-to-day management needed
  • user quarantine controls


  • Inbound filtering only
  • limited customisation

Tumbleweed’s MailGate 2.2 differs markedly from other mail server security appliances in that it offers very little scope to manage the spam and virus filtering tools it provides. The upside to that, however, is quick and easy deployment plus very low overheads when it comes to day-to-day management. Tumbleweed MailGate costs from £4,000 for up to 1,000 users.

We tested a 1U MailGate appliance with just one Pentium 4 processor and internal disk drive, although a dual-processor version with mirrored drives is available for large networks. A single 10/100Mbps Ethernet connector is used for LAN attachment and, like many mail server security appliances, the MailGate is designed to act as a relay or message transfer agent, forwarding incoming SMTP packets to a local Exchange, Lotus or other mail server.

To get started, you need to either update DNS to direct mail to the appliance, or program your firewall to forward port 25 (SMTP) to its address. That address is set via a control panel on the front of the server, after which a browser is used for the remaining setup and management. The interface is far from the prettiest we’ve seen but it does the job, and with fewer options than the competition it proved to be very easy to navigate.

In fact there’s very little to set up at all. Domains to be processed and target servers must be identified, and there’s LDAP support to authenticate users, if needed, but not much else. There are no filtering rules, keywords or external blacklists to worry about, just a proprietary IBF (Intent-Based Filtering) engine based on artificial intelligence technology. The latter simply gets on with its job: it works out what’s spam, what’s bulk mail and what’s normal traffic; antivirus filtering is also provided, using either Kaspersky or McAfee engines -- or both.

The emphasis is very much on ease of use, with no controls over what happens to spam -- it’s all just quarantined. Users can then manage their quarantine folders directly, with new users automatically identified when mail is received and sent a link that password-enables them to log onto the MailGate directly. They can then edit their settings, see and control quarantined messages, and mange their own white/black lists.

Of course, administrators can also manage the process, and the management interface accordingly includes basic status graphs and reporting tools. There’s also master access to quarantined messages, although in practice Tumbleweed’s MailGate 2.2 is very much a solution you can set and forget about most of the time.