One man’s spam battle

* Real estate developer uses ChoiceMail to regain control of e-mail

Fed up with finding his e-mail box full of spam every day, Nick Nicholas took matters into his own hands. The owner of a busy real estate development firm in Dallas, Nicholas estimates that only 20% of the 100 messages he receives daily are business related. At first, he tried to beat spam with his delete key, but soon realized he was spending half an hour each day on a task that didn’t solve the problem. 

Over time, Nicholas’s aggravation over spam sometimes caused him to delete important messages. “If I was in a bad mood and I hit the delete key, I could just roll through the list deleting everything,” he says. “I can’t say I lost business, but I took some great chewing out and tarnishing of my reputation.” 

Nicholas’s firm, Nicholas Company, has been developing shopping centers, land developments and other large building projects for 27 years. Usually, Nicolas turns to his computer consultant to help him solve tech problems. But this time, he found the answer to his spam problem himself last fall, while reading the Texas Association of Realtors newsletter. The story focused on ChoiceMail, an anti-spam product from DigiPortal.

Nicholas was apprehensive about downloading and installing the software himself, so he asked his consultant to try it first. “He told me it was pretty good stuff,” Nicholas says. On that recommendation, Nicholas purchased copies of ChoiceMail 2.0 ($40 per seat) for the six members of his team. The consultant also installed it at several of his other small business clients. DigiPortal also offers a multi-user version aimed at small businesses that lack a file server, and an enterprise version.

The software is rules-based. Upon installation, it automatically downloaded Nicholas’s e-mail address book, putting all addresses on a white list, or list of good e-mail recipients. When he receives a message from an address ChoiceMail doesn’t recognize, the software intercepts it, and sends a return message to the sender asking him to click a link and identify himself and state the purpose of the message. Since spammers don’t have anyone minding the store, they don’t answer the e-mail and their messages are designated spam and moved to ChoiceMail’s spam folder. ChoiceMail also lets you mark a message (or address or entire domain) as spam manually, and the system will quarantine any similar mail.

Nicholas says some of his more impatient associates didn’t take too kindly to the e-mail challenge. “Some guys don’t like having to identify who they are, and you get rude responses,” he says. But Nicolas says once they understand, most people don’t mind and some even want to learn more about the product.

Today, Nicholas and his employees are nearly spam free. The software includes a graphical display that measures how many spam messages Nicolas receives daily. Although about 90% of his mail is spam, Nicholas says he sees very little of it because ChoiceMail has filtered it out.

There is some upkeep on Nicholas’s end. Several times a week, the system displays a permission box based on the e-mails it has sent out. Nicholas says he grants permission to receive e-mail from only a few. He also checks the spam folder weekly to ensure the newsletters he subscribes to don’t sneak through. He marks those as OK and deletes the rest.

“I’m a real estate man. I don’t know much about computers, but ChoiceMail has saved me time and aggravation,” he says. 

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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