Another perceived strength of appliances is that they generally have a hardened operating system which protects the appliance from common vulnerability exploits. This is certainly a valid security practice. Most viruses and spyware in the wild are designed to exploit vulnerabilities in desktop versions of popular Windows operating systems. So, using another operating system theoretically makes you less susceptible to infection. However, there are still viruses in the wild for other operating systems such as Linux, which is popular with some of the appliance vendors. But more importantly, the argument for hardened operating systems is somewhat overblown. Microsoft provides exhaustive information for free on how Windows operating systems on dedicated application servers can be locked down and hardened, and it is relatively easy to do.
The perception that appliances are the holy grail of e-mail content security solutions is changing rapidly. The risk of downtime and the potential lag between new vulnerabilities and the ability to install dedicated appliances to counter them is forcing many companies to re-evaluate their choices. Customers looking for easy-to-use, flexible, scalable and cost-effective e-mail content security products with a good ROI are realising that software solutions can often be a better bet for the long term.
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