Welcome to Claritech Solutions!

1 08 2009

Welcome to Claritech’s new web site, hosted on Dreamhost.com. This site is designed to be more dynamic and to provide more interactive value to our clients.

Claritech Solutions Corp. is an information technology professional services organization providing expertise to clients in Alberta, Canada. For more information, please see our About and Services pages. 

Please feel free to look around and post a comment!

Hosted Email Distribution Lists – Sherweb fits the bill

26 04 2011

We recently migrated one of our clients to Google AppsTM for Business from in-house Microsoft® Exchange.  Everything went pretty smoothly until it came to distribution lists for their email newsletters and announcements.

Here’s the issue:  While Google does a great job of processing distribution lists through Google Groups, these lists cannot be managed (or accessed) via Microsoft Outlook®. My requirements were simple:  give me a distribution list that I can pull up in an address book and edit it or expand it as needed. For example, if I have a list of my extended family, I’d like to be able to bring up that list in Outlook, expand it, and then delete the family members I don’t want to send to, based on my own criteria.  Ideally, it would be nice to be able to maintain the list in Outlook as well, but that’s not a priority.

It’s a simple requirement, but it turns out it’s not as easy to accommodate as one would think.  I did finally arrive at success, however, with Sherweb, an independent Exchange provider based in Quebec, Canada.  In this post, I’ll go through the three platforms I tested and describe the problems with distribution lists that I encountered:

Read the rest of this entry »

Hosted anti-spam services

31 10 2010

This month we’ll be looking at various hosted anti-spam solutions.  Hosted solutions differ from on-site solutions in that there is no need to install or update software on either your server or your desktops.  This can minimize administration as well as bandwidth usage as only valid email will reach your network.

Symantec MessageLabs Hosted anti-spam:  Symantec does not provide pricing for this solution, so it is difficult to determine the value relative to the offering or to the other solutions. They do claim “an industry-leading SLA that covers 100% protection against known and unknown viruses and 99% spam capture.”    The Symantec MessageLabs solution appears to go well beyond simple anti-spam, providing  a complete content management and email continuity service.  If anti-spam is all you’re after, this looks like it would overkill.

Purity Network Email Protection Services: Purity is not a well known name in the antivirus/antispam marketplace,  but they’ve got a pretty compelling offering.  The cost is  only US$10.95/year/mailbox, which is a very reasonable price.  For domains with more than 10 mailboxes, a per domain price of US$9.95 per month is the way to go.  The domain service covers up to 30,000 emails per month for an unlimited number of users.  If even more protection is required, the server option for $49.95 per month covers an unlimited number of domains on one server and up to 750,000 emails per month. Purity has the most well defined SLA of all the solutions, offering a 99.9% uptime guarante

e, and a 24 hour service response guarantee, although no guarantee on accuracy.

Trend Micro Hosted Email Security:  This service is similar to the Purity offering, in that it provides hosted email security only. The cost is quite a bit higher than the Purity service, starting at $40 per user per year for a minimum of 5 users.  The price does go down if you purchase more users or a longer term.  Trend Micro also claims that their solution “Stops 99%+ of all spam and 100% of all email-based viruses—or you’re eligible for money back.”  Like Symantec, they don’t go into much detail about the “money back” portion.

Hosted Email solutions:  If there is no compelling reason to have your own in-house email solution (and for organizations of less than 50 users, we really don’t see a reason), a fully-hosted email solution is by far the simplest way to obtain (almost) spam-free and virus-free email.  All the hosted email solutions we deal with also provide antivirus/antispam solutions as part of their offering.  Even Shaw hosted email includes antispam, although Shaw implements it very poorly.  Shaw tends to delete as its default antispam solution, which can create major confusion for its users. The hosted Exchange solution we resell, Sherweb, uses Cloudmark, which is one of the best antispam solutions available.  Sherweb allows you to view and manage the quarantined email.

We also recommend Google Apps.  Google Apps Standard Edition uses their own antispam/antivirus engine and it appears to be adequate, although one does need to check the Spam folder regularly.  Google Apps Premium Edition allows the organization to use Postini email security as part of the solution, all as part of the default package. We wrote about Google Apps earlier this year and are currently in the process of migrating Claritech to Google Apps Premium Edition.

In conclusion, if you’re keen on maintaining your own in-house email solution, a hosted email security solution may be a reasonable first-step onto the cloud.  There are many solutions out there and they all offer similar methods of protecting your email.  Symantec takes it to the next level and protects all of your Internet communications.  If in-house email is not necessary, a hosted email solution will provide good protection and a very reasonable price, when you include the value of not having to manage your own email.  Please contact us if you’re interested in finding out about hosted Exchange, Google Apps or any of the other solutions mentioned in this post.

Antivirus that works – VIPRE Enterprise Premium

30 09 2010

One of the latest challenges we’ve had with our clients is finding and implementing the right antivirus solution.  Over the years we’ve tried AVG, Trend Micro and most recently BitDefender.  While we continue to update and support these packages for our clients where the products are working effectively, for new installations we have been promoting VIPRE Enterprise Premium or VIPRE Antivirus Premium from Sunbelt Software as our Claritech standard.

NEWS FLASH: Microsoft has just announced that, starting in October, they are expanding their  previously home-only offer of a free version of Microsoft Security Essentials to businesses with less than 10 PCs.  The waters are muddy indeed…

The main reason that we’ve switched antivirus vendors so often in the last several years is that no one could seem to get it right.  Some of them are very light (AVG), some of them are quite comprehensive (Trend Micro) and some of them do a better job of catching viruses (BitDefender). None of them, until now, has done a great job at all three.

We’ve been following Sunbelt Software for several years through their informative newsletters and have always been interested in their products.  Counterspy was their first product that really got our attention, because it was one of the best at finding and eliminating spyware.   When VIPRE Antivirus emerged that combined the functionality of their antivirus, antispyware and a personal firewall (with the Premium version), it was decided that it was worth a try and we’ve been very impressed ever since.

One of the things we like about VIPRE is that it is relatively unknown, and is therefore not targeted by malware.  This also makes it somewhat difficult to find unbiased third-party reviews of the product.  One such review on PC Magazine rates VIPRE highly:

VIPRE is a very good standalone antivirus tool that outscores all but the very best of its competition in my tests. Those with more than three computers will love its $49.95 unlimited home license.

They do not include the Enterprise version in their review, but the Enterprise integration is definitely a key feature when installing in a corporate environment.

Another review can be found on the How To Geek website:

Vipre Anti-virus + Anti-Spyware is the best utility of its kind that I have used in a long time.  It is surprisingly light on system resources even while scanning, you won’t even know it’s running.  The liberal Home Site Licensing is very welcome for the user on a tight budget.  The cost of a one year unlimited license is $49.95 which covers all of the PC’s you have in the residence.  A cheaper license of $29.95 can be purchased for one machine.   If you are looking for a powerful security program that does not slow down your PC then Vipre is highly recommended.

Another great must-have antivirus product from Sunbelt Software is VIPRE PC Rescue.  This free version of VIPRE is updated daily as is intended to assist with the cleanup of infected PCs.  If it can’t be downloaded and run directly from the infected PC, it can be downloaded to a USB or CD drive and run from there.  (A trick to successfully running from a USB drive is to write-protect the drive before installing on the infected PC.)

In conclusion, for businesses with less than 10 PCs and no server you might want to take a look at Microsoft Security Essentials.  For those with a server or more than 10 PCs, a centralized AV solution such as VIPRE Enterprise is recommended.  Unless there is a compelling reason (such as performance, functionality or price) we do not recommend switching from your current AV product.