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Spam Control Solutions

Approximately 98% of all email is spam. To most people that’s a frighteningly huge number, but also makes sense to most of us given all the garbage that flows into our inboxes.When I talk with clients about spam, their number one request is “Make it go away.” People just don’t want to ever see it, let alone have to deal with it. Sure it’s a nuisance, but what effect can it really have on the bottom line?

Studies have shown that the average computer user will spend 20-40 minutes each day dealing with spam. For a small business with just 15 employees, that would equate to 7-1/2 hours of lost productivity each and every day. It’s like having nearly one full-time employee on staff just to deal with spam. How would that look on the bottom line?

This number doesn’t even take into account the other destructive things that spam can bring along with it like viruses, trojans, worms, hijacks and phishing. If any of these make it through, it could cause untold amounts of damage in terms of lost productivity and cost for repairs.One important fact to understand is that spam cannot be 100% eliminated, no matter what hardware and software you install. However, with the right solution, spam can be dramatically reduced, practically eliminating its negative effect on productivity.

So what options do businesses have? There are basically three choices when dealing with spam: control by the hosting provider, control on each individual computer, or a custom solution that specifically addresses the needs of all users.

Spam Control by the Email Hosting Provider
1]Typically email hosting providers offer some sort of spam control which is either ON or OFF. ON means you never see any of the messages the host determines as spam. OFF means you get everything.

2]The main problem with this type of control is that there are too many “false positives.” A false positive occurs when a legitimate email gets marked as spam and is deleted before the recipient ever gets to see it. Some examples of false positives are occur in email blasts (for example, “Your bank statement is ready” or “You have an invoice”), or html-based or graphic-rich emails.

3]Because the recipient never gets to see it, he or she cannot control it at a granular, or individual email, level.

Spam Control on Each Individual Computer
1]On an individual computer, there is software available for Microsoft Outlook and other email programs that controls spam at a more granular level.

2]This level of control is fine for a single computer, but not a good solution for multiple computers.

3]The difficulty with this approach is that each user is responsible for determining what spam is. Imagine the labor that is duplicated with an office of 10, 20 or 50 people all managing the same spam, but doing it individually.

4]You can see how the wasted time can add up in a hurry.

5]So what is the best possible solution? Stopping this stuff from ever getting to the computer in the first place.

A Custom Solution Creates the Ideal Spam Control
1]The ideal spam control setup is a custom solution comprised of three main components: an Exchange Server, a Firewall, and an Email Filter.

2] These can be configured to address the needs of all users while also protecting the company. (Please note that for this article I will use the term “Exchange Server.” Microsoft also builds a Small Business Server, of which Exchange is a part. A qualified IT consultant should be able to help you decide which solution is best for your business.)

3]For any businesses of at least five users or more connected to the Internet, you must start by having an Exchange Server. An Exchange Server stores messages and effectively manages the processing of incoming and outgoing emails.

4] An Exchange Server also adds other benefits like providing Outlook Web access for increased productivity, and allowing users to share contact information and calendars with others throughout the network.

5]For an Exchange Server to operate optimally, connectivity has to be persistent (consistent?), or always up. To get this type of connectivity, a T-1 line is the best connection.

6]Next, you must have a Firewall. We recommend a Unified Threat Management Appliance (UTM) which is a hardware firewall and then some.

7]To turn a plain firewall into a UTM, it is necessary to add security software at your gateway, or the “front door” where your network connects to the Internet. This software includes anti-spyware, anti-virus, intrusion prevention, and standard content filtering software.

8]This complete Firewall solution basically builds a “wall” which secures the entire network, effectively stopping viruses and other destructive programs from finding their way in via attached files and emails. It also is configured to prevent dubious websites from putting spy ware, aware and other things on your computer which can dramatically slow down performance.

9]Once the network is secure, the next step would be to add an Email Filter appliance, which is hardware that allows you to set granular level filtering for the entire network.

10]The email filter will allow you to set characteristics ONCE for the network, and it can even learn preferences of your users over time (if you choose).

11]Also, this filter adds valuable anti-phishing capabilities, protecting your company and employees at a much deeper level by keeping scam artists away from financial data and confidential information.

12]This setup takes the responsibility away from employees to manage spam on their own, and immediately increases productivity for each employee. Bottom line benefits can be seen right away, and for most companies, a measurable return on investment can be achieved in a few months.

You Can Control Spam
1]After reviewing these solutions, clients often say, “You can really make all of these problems go away?” The answer is YES, but the best solution for each business does not lie in an “off-the-shelf” or canned package.

2]The best solution is a custom solution, including a thorough analysis leading to a phase-in plan of the appropriate hardware and software over a period of a few months. This approach also allows the business to smooth the financial investment (which will vary) over the implementation timeframe.

3]Jim Kerr is President and Founder of CRU Solutions, which is celebrating their 25th year in business, and 15th year as an Intel partner.

4]CRU is a comprehensive IT systems solution provider of exclusive, industry-leading hardware, software, connectivity, expertise and a unique approach to customer service. CRU’s intelligentTM brand of desktops, laptops and servers are custom built in Northeast Ohio exclusively with matched Intel components. You can reach Jim Kerr directly at jim.kerr@crusolutions.com. Additional information is available at