Thoughts on Barracudas?

Matt Laney mdlaney at
Mon Aug 21 14:46:14 IST 2006

Hey, Julian,

> I have had some comments from a few people leaving the mailing list as 
> they are ditching their MailScanner setups and switching to Barracuda 
> applicances instead. They claim that things worked fine when they first 
> installed MailScanner, but gradually more and more spam is leaking 
> through, to the point where they have decided to abandon it.

I run between three and five MailScanner boxes at my site (5000 email
users, something like 150,000 emails per day) depending on which of
my found hardware is working, and when the Barracuda started gaining
popularity about a year ago I tried it out as a means of reducing my mail
management overhead.  Basically, since I run neither FreeBSD nor RedHat,
I was trying to get around the headaches associated with MailScanner

The 30-day or so demo went poorly enough that I sent the thing back and
haven't regretted it a bit.  Instead, I'm building a couple really big
MailScanner boxes that'll do nicely with FreeBSD.

> What is your opinion on the Barracuda appliance?

I think the Barracuda spam filter gizmo is fine for small sites with
limited numbers of users, Exchange on the back end, and not much in the
way of complicated need.  In fact, I recommend it to several of my
consulting clients who have 30-person offices.

> How easy is it to use?

The interface is pretty, but not very intuitive.  Training it is difficult:
you pretty much have to let it collect a bunch of mail, then click on each
of those items of mail with a web browser and tell it Spam or Not Spam.  At
least at the time I played with it there was no equivalent to feeding it a
couple corpi via sa-learn.

There's a built-in quarantine feature that I couldn't use because of my
mail store system (non-LDAP-friendly).

It makes pretty pictures.

Tweaking settings per user was both easy and hard -- I couldn't make it do
what I wanted.  Like so many commercial products, you're sort of stuck with
the way of thinking about mail and spam that they've built in.

I think they tried too hard to get personalized spam handling per recipient,
which is something my site doesn't use.  (We have almost nothing configured
per-user except the level of spamminess at which mail is deleted before they
ever see it, and even that's only done for about 10 people.)

> Does it actually work?

Kinda.  We had more spam getting through it than I had getting through
an old MailScanner with an old SpamAssassin on it.  It's nowhere near
as flexible as MailScanner, but for straight up picking spam out of the
email stream, it did OK.

> Can it survive the loads they say it can?

Not in my tests.  I was getting bigger delays in processing across a new
Barracuda than I was getting across MailScanner before the last two big
speed improvements... running on a Pentium 3 900MHz with 256 megs of RAM.

> And, of course, how does it compare with MailScanner?

I stayed with MailScanner.  It does not win my vote, particularly when
the load is large.  :-)


Matt Laney, mdlaney at
Dir. Network Services & Technical Support
Morehouse College; Atlanta, GA, USA

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