Guarantee makes an Oasis for e-mail

A company from Edmonton, Alta. so confidently believes in its homegrown manner of virus protection that the firm offers a money-back guarantee if clients’ servers become infected.

CSM Systems Inc. recently announced the availability of Miraware Oasis, an e-mail server with built-in digital sentries. John Putters, the company’s president, said CSM is sure the system can handle any malicious code, and he’s ready to risk revenue to prove it.

“I know it’s a very bold statement we’ve made,” he said about the money-back guarantee. But Putters insisted that the server would prove its mettle.

For one thing, Oasis employs a “renamed” extension; a simple procedure designed to confound stupidity. When enabled, this feature changes the name of attachments. An incoming file called “virus.vbs” would be renamed as “virus.vbs.renamed,” and the recipient would have to press “save” and remove the final suffix to open the file. Putters said the process might give the recipient time enough to think about what he’s doing.

CSM also pushes virus protection updates from its own servers to Oasis clients, so the guarantee against infection is “a function of how fast we (CSM) react,” said the company’s president.

CSM looks beyond security with this device. The server sits in the end-user’s office, not off-site with an ISP. Thus network managers maintain full control over e-mail protocols, such as user quotas, spam filters and password changes. And because it’s a dedicated, in-office box, Oasis users can change ISPs without having to change e-mail addresses.

Oasis also offers Web-based access to e-mail, so remote users need not reconfigure their e-mail programs to retrieve messages from away.

The server is easy to install, Putters said, so you need no special skills to maintain it.

“We’re really going after small- and mid-sized companies that can’t afford in-house tech support, but need the flexibility of managing multiple e-mails…Accounting and legal companies, where there’s a lot of sensitive data going back and forth.”

Jonathan Penn, senior industry analyst of directories, messaging and security with Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group, said there’s nothing new about the money-back guarantee CSM offers.

“The truth is, even if you get all the money back that you paid for the product, such a guarantee doesn’t cover the migration and installation costs, and it certainly doesn’t come anywhere close to truly compensating someone for their losses due to virus infection,” Penn wrote in an e-mail to Network World Canada.

The analyst questioned Oasis’ market share prospects.

“All in all, I don’t see much there that’s of interest to corporations of any size. Though they don’t specifically say so, CSM must be targeting very small businesses (under 50 employees)…There’s no group scheduling capabilities, which would cause many companies to discount them from consideration.”

One end-user, however, disagreed with Penn’s assessment. Four Winds and Associates, an Edmonton-based consulting company serving the Aboriginal community, is giving the Oasis a go on a trial run. Jody Munro, the firm’s general manager, said the server offers the right blend of functionality and ease-of-use.

“The fact that this is a plug-and-play appliance, a lot of people can’t build their own e-mail servers, like myself.” In other words, not everyone has the skills to build and configure their own servers. Oasis is so easy to use, Munro said, that even those of us with little technical experience can operate and manage the device.

The security features are a joy especially since “we deal with the Aboriginal community – band organizations and tribal councils – and a lot of them are concerned about the security of their e-mails,” he said. “I think it will be attractive to them, having their own e-mail servers.”

As for the money-back guarantee, Munro said he found it intriguing. If CSM’s product is as tight as the company claims, Four Winds might very well purchase the demo model. And if CSM is stretching the truth, the maker takes the brunt.

The Miraware Oasis server is priced at $3,000. To learn more about the product, see CSM’s Web site at