Appliances are a much better choice than software for spam protection because they address the broad range of security threats.
Appliances are a much better choice than software for spam protection because they address the broad range of security threats facing large companies, small businesses, service providers, and educational and government institutions. Deployed at the edge of a customer's network, gateway appliances provide the most efficient, easy-to-manage approach to solving spam problems by offloading the existing mail server and addressing security threats before they enter an organization's network.
Customers want effective spam products - products with proven high catch-rates and zero false positives. Appliances pre-integrate a variety of e-mail security technologies into one, purpose-built unit to get the best spam accuracy, with no impact on a customer's message network and e-mail service reliability. Combined security features help customers get better overall protection and simplify the IT administrator's life. Appliances can be deployed in minutes, compared with hours or days with software-only approaches.
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Even with all spam technology being equal - regardless if it's software-based or an appliance - appliances let customers deploy protection more quickly and take advantage of built-in optimization for performance and reliability, currently unattainable with software on general-purpose servers. Furthermore, software-based approaches have inherent vulnerabilities when deployed on general-purpose platforms. Operating systems such as Solaris and Windows have widely known susceptibilities to viruses and hacker threats that make them vulnerable to increased attacks. Appliance-based products employ a pre-hardened operating system that has no exposed executable environment or open ports that a hacker can exploit.
Appliances provide a more complete, holistic approach to e-mail security. Customers appreciate the "one source, one solution" approach. According to a November 2003 report by Michael Osterman of Osterman Research, 70% of customers prefer to purchase messaging-threat products from one source. Single-source, integrated e-mail security products include capabilities for managing traffic and performing advanced analysis beyond just spam filtering - including reverse DNS lookup, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol authentication, virus scanning, content filtering, policy enforcement, detailed logging and reporting, and more.
In contrast, software-only spam products tend to be narrowly focused on spam filtering and overlook related threats that can seriously expose an organization's message network to an increased deluge of spam traffic, spammer exploitation or a variety of other threats.
Appliances are a more effective solution for stopping spam and a more complete e-mail security approach. They require dramatically less ongoing management than software, delivering much faster ROI and a low ongoing total cost of ownership. Any organization thinking seriously about e-mail reliability and security should standardize on appliances.
Chiu is a senior manager at Mirapoint, an e-mail security appliance vendor in Sunnyvale, Calif. He can be reached at email@example.com.