Cisco Email Security (ESA) Review

While the tool does a good job of blocking malicious emails, it does have limitations with its sandboxing


What is our primary use case?

It is an anti-spam solution, and we primarily use it for email anti-spam. It removes the spam emails, and we have our own manual filters to remove unnecessary or unwanted emails. So, it is working just fine.

We have been using the solution for more than three years. We started on version 9 and are currently on version 11.1.

How has it helped my organization?

In regards to what we filter out, we don't have a lot of information. We have a small team who handles most of the software, including the email filtering and email security. 

The solution drops bad email, like the spam or emails with viruses. We are not currently doing further analysis to indicate what was really targeted, or determining if something else with generated, malicious or spam. The filtering is okay, and we don't have complaints from our customers or users, so we aren't doing any further steps.

The email processing and event logging are very detailed and valuable. They are also helpful when we troubleshoot email issues and perform email analysis, even though the logs are not structured properly.

What is most valuable?

We like the in-built features, like the email filtering based on the IP and domain. Cisco has its own blacklisted domains and IPs, which is very good. This filters around 70 percent of emails from spam, and we are seeing fewer false positives with this.

The notifications about why the emails were blocked is a good feature.

What needs improvement?

Having Cisco Email Security as a standalone solution is not good enough. It needs to be combined with another solution. For example, it will not stop all phishing and malware. We tried having only Cisco Email Security (IronPort) and faced multiple issues due to the sandboxing. The sandboxing for this solution is not up to mark and needs improvement. It does not detect much at the moment, just the set criteria that it already has designated.

The solution needs to improve its advanced phishing filters. It is very good at filtering things which have bad reputations. However, when phishing or malicious emails are new or coming from a legitimate source, we don't feel that the solution is working.

While the tool does a good job of blocking malicious emails, it does have limitations. For example, it sometimes cannot identity file extensions and sends through files that we don't want, like OneNote. We can filter by file name extension, but it is too easy to change the file name extension by adding numerical characters, etc.

For how long have I used the solution?

Three to five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We expect 95 to 98 stability (perfection) in the product. 

We have one person doing maintenance, which is me. I handle this product along with three other security products. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We are currently utilizing all the features in the product.

We have 1100 users.

How are customer service and technical support?

The support is great. They are very fast with their responses and are very knowledgeable. Its support is available 24 hours. These things are very good.

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

We did not use a solution prior to this one.

We were looking to automate most of the stuff related to email filtering, so the solution bought from IronPort (now a part of Cisco) was to reduce our workload.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward, but very lengthy, because it powers up most of the options from the email filtering solutions. While it is good, it will take some time to implement all the features, compared to other solutions. 

It is very simple to set up, but we decided to set it up with exceptional cases. Cisco is more flexible compared to other solution, but it could still improve, especially in the area of ruling logic and enhanced communications. With some other email security products, we can have very complex conditions which we can filter out. This is still not available with Cisco Email Security.

It takes a minimum of a month to build the setup. However, for a good set-up, it will require one year to put in place all the options in place. We had to understand how the emails flowed. 

What about the implementation team?

An implementation partner, SecureLink, helped with the setup. They did a good job and were knowledgeable in the product. But, as an implementation partner, they do not take responsibility for any failures of the product.

Cisco helps with the day-to-day. 

We set up the filtering options ourselves.

What was our ROI?

We have seen ROI. Only 70 percent of phishing and bad emails are getting through. There are very few solutions that boast this percentage of filtering. This level of filtering helps our company.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is not that costly. We pay for the solution through a contractor and pay an annual fee.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We are currently using two different email security products, which is how we are able to identify the pros and cons of Cisco Email Security. We use a similar product called FireEye. It can detect based on sandboxing. Anything bad that it sees, it will detect. It is not based on file extension or file types. Recently, we have been able to block with it using some type of file extensions or hash.

What other advice do I have?

I would recommend to use Cisco Email Security first as your email filtering solution, but do not rely on it as your only solution. 

I like the product because it is very easy to work with or we can make it complex if we want.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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