Sidebar: Where Should We Send Your Mail?

As with numerous technologies these days, there's a debate churning in corporations over whether to bring spam-filtering technologies in-house or turn the job over to a service provider. While many professionals are reluctant to trust the handling of corporate e-mail to an outside provider because of security concerns, others think the ever-changing tactics of spammers make an e-mail services provider the best choice.

Sold on the latter option is Rob Buchwald, security manager at North Olmsted, Ohio-based Moen Inc., a large provider of residential and commercial plumbing products.

"The problem with dealing with spam in-house is that our filtering is only as good as we are, and we'd be continually updating rules and maintaining a system. That's where a service provider blows everything else away," says Buchwald. "When a spammer changes their approach, a service provider shifts the rule sets and can do so on an hourly basis, which we could never do in-house."

Moen has contracted with New York-based MessageLabs Inc. for its e-mail services. When someone sends an e-mail to the company from the outside, it's first routed to MessageLabs, which scans it and then sends it back to Moen's Microsoft Exchange servers, stamped to indicate that it's free of viruses and spam. To address security concerns, Moen ensured that MessageLabs was ISO 17799-compliant before contracting with it.

Buchwald says Moen makes its ROI for the service within two and a half weeks every year. "We have the potential to lose $1.2 million annually due to lost productivity, and when we can address that for pennies per user per month, it's a sound business decision," he says.

Like everyone dealing with spam, Buchwald says his biggest concern is false positives. "When you're receiving 60% less e-mail due to spam blocking, you wonder what you're missing," he says. Moen's strategy has been to emphasize user education so employees will be aware of a possible false positive if they were expecting a message and didn't receive it. In addition, prior to turning on the spam blocking, the company's help desk quarantined all spam messages and cherry-picked false positives to create a whitelist, in addition to creating internal rules for spam.

"It's a thankless, time-consuming job, but the upfront work has paid off. Now we can go back to the business and show them that only one message out of every 5,000 is stopped as a false positive, and if I see those numbers creeping up, we can go to MessageLabs and hold them to task," Buchwald says.

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