Forefront Security for Exchange (FSE) is the Microsoft solution to protecting your Exchange environment from viruses and malware. Small Business Server 2008 includes a 180 free trail version (installation is optional), while Essential Business Server 2008 includes a 1 year subscription. Forefront for Exchange can also be purchased as a standalone product.
It is common to find multiple anti-virus solutions in a network environment with desktop scanners provided by one vendor and server based scanners by another. This means that viruses must get past two vendor products to infect a network. The downside of this strategy is cost and administration overhead. FSE supports up to 5 scanners from different vendors in a single management console and one license cost. In addition enhanced anti-spam capabilities are included building on the existing functionality included in Exchange 2007.
The installation process is straight forward and asks a series of questions to determine which options you want to enable, choice of scanners and anti-spam signature downloads. FSE can install on either Exchange Edge or Transport roles allowing scanning of email coming in and out of your system or being routed between servers internally.
One of the first things that struck me about FSE is that the interface is not the standard Microsoft MMC style interface. Lack of Active Directory integration is also an obvious omission e.g. AD groups. Centralised administration of multiple servers appears to be missing in this release.
FSE does have a comprehensive set of rules and configuration options. It would be easy to spend a lot of time fine tuning scanning rules after the initial installation e.g. defining safe attachments etc. I recommend taking time to review the configuration options rather than installing and forgetting about it.
My overall impression of FSE is that it is a step in the right direction from Microsoft but that it does require more work to improve the integration with other Microsoft technologies. Multiple scanners and anti-spam features provide excellent protection with simplified management of updates. It does appear to be a good anti-virus solution for protecting Exchange and I look forward to seeing the next release.