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Winning Ways to Stop Spam

These IT organizations took different approaches, but they all successfully controlled spam. Here's how they did it.

By Mark Hall
March 1, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - After two failed attempts to control spam, Lyndon Brown thinks he's finally licked the problem. The manager of property and electronic messaging systems at the Dallas-based Wyndham International Inc. hotel chain is typical of many IT managers who have seen spam grow from being a nuisance for sensitive end users to a full-blown, productivity sinkhole for the entire company.
But Brown, like others, successfully fought off the unwanted e-mail. And along the way he freed up valuable IT resources, saved money and improved employee productivity.
Last year, spam cost businesses an average of $874 per employee in lost productivity, according to Nucleus Research Inc. in Wellesley, Mass. Yet companies that have found the right antispam technology have culled as much as 98% of spam destined for users' desktops, claims Boston-based The Yankee Group.
But the right tool still eludes many businesses, says Rebecca Wetteman, vice president of research at Nucleus. "It is still a huge problem with a significant impact on the way we do business," she says.
If you're still running rear-guard actions to combat spam or are looking for better alternatives, then the lessons of Wyndham International and other companies should prove valuable. Each took a different approach, but they all got results.
Adding a Gatekeeper
Brown says Wyndham deployed its first antispam tool in 2002, when the volume of unwanted messages could be handled by a customizable content filter on the e-mail server. An administrator set up the software with keywords believed to be spam indicators. But pretty soon, Brown recalls, the company had a full-time person dedicated to updating the filter to handle all the tricks spammers used to bypass it. "It just wasn't working," he says.
In January 2003, Brown switched to a stand-alone antispam appliance, which he declines to name. By that time, 27% of the 75,000 messages hitting Wyndham's e-mail servers each day were spam. But the appliance had a high false-positive rate, and Brown was deluged with complaints from many of the 7,000 e-mail users.
By August, spam accounted for 48% of all in-bound e-mail. So Brown rolled the dice for the third time and deployed MailFrontier Enterprise Gateway, antispam software from MailFrontier Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif. "We tested it for two weeks, then pushed it into production," he says.
The software, which can run on a dedicated Windows or Solaris server, sits inside the firewall and works with Wyndham's Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directory server. MailFrontier immediately recognizes any user account changes on the LDAP server. The system has reduced spam management from a full-time job with the content



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