Cisco Email Security (ESA) Review

The logs, configuration, and monitoring were all key features for me


What is our primary use case?

We used ESA to filter spam. My overall experience with ESA was pretty good. No major issues were reported in my time. It worked fine for me.

What is most valuable?

One of the most valuable features would be the logs. There were detailed logs available. That was a seriously good feature. There were cases in which some spam mails penetrated through ESA; users reported that these were spam. The support was also good from Cisco. I got in touch with support and they helped us. It turns out these were actually spoof emails that came into our environment. I got to know about them from the log system. I was able to create a filter as a result.

For me, the ease of use was good. From the logs, from the configuration, from the monitoring perspectives, it was all good.

What needs improvement?

They could improve the filters. In my time at the company, there were several times we had to contact support to update the filters. They can definitely work more on that.

They can also work on the updating of the appliance. We had to do it once, when I was part of the engineering team. We had to update to a later version. It was complicated for me. I had to follow the instructions without understanding anything. Maybe there was pressure that caused me to not and understand them properly, but it was still complicated. The documentation was not there when we tried to update it. It may also have been due to my lack of experience. If I had done it twice or three times, I might have become accustomed to it and have done it more easily.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It was very stable. My experience with that version of it was really great. Apart from the improvement needed to the filters, it was all good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We added one appliance to the platform and upgraded one to a newer version. The company did it quite easily. I was not part of that implementation, but the another guy told me that it was quite easy to do.

There were no plans to increase usage of it in that company at the time I was there. It was used by about 800 users and, since all of the users were using it and the organization was limited, everybody was already onboard. We had licenses for all of the users. It was all well designed from before. Apparently, they had to procure licenses for 200 to 300 more people, but that was after I left the organization. I didn't see what happened at that point.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support was really good. There were two cases where we raised priority tickets and they responded well. They even helped us on Saturdays. Support was good.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

When I got there, ESA was already implemented. We were only tuning it. Before my organization took over the operations for that bank, it was being taken care by someone else. I don't know what was implemented before that.

How was the initial setup?

In terms of updating the appliance, once we set it up, it completed by itself. It was automatic mostly, but we took one night's worth of downtime. It completed in one to two hours. There were two people involved in doing the update.

We had a cluster set up, one to five devices, three in the DC and two in DR. It took only two people. For me, it was complicated. The other guy was very experienced on it. He had so much implementation experience on the appliance and he was able to guide me through it.

We did the DC first and failed over to the DR. Then we failed back and did the DR.

What was our ROI?

I don't know directly, but since there was nothing major that happened, I don't think the ROI was bad. What we're looking for is value. There should be no hampering of production and there was nothing like that, so the ROI should have been good.

What other advice do I have?

Implementing it and support are good. Using it is also good. What remains is the technical expertise of the people who would be administering it. The thing you should have in mind when implementing it is that you have adequate resources, trained and skilled on this appliance so they can manage it. I was not that good. I was not that good with it at the time I started working on it. I had a few difficulties. I was lucky that nothing major happened during my time. Apart from that, the appliance itself was really good.

Considering the support and all the parameters I have talked about, I would give ESA a nine out of ten.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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