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Anti-spam services from managed service providers

Jun 30, 20045 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalware

* A look at four anti-spam MSPs

First off, I would like to introduce myself. I will be taking over this column from Steve Hultquist, who will continue as a guest contributor from time-to-time. I may be familiar to those of you who subscribe to Network World’s Systems/Network Management newsletter, as I have been a regular contributor to that column for the past couple of years. For those of you that are not familiar with me, I am a Research Director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) in Boulder, Colo.

At EMA I cover systems and applications management (among other things), and outsourcing is a topic that overlays all of my coverage areas. I have been involved in outsourcing since the late 1990s when I launched an early managed service provider (MSP) offering, and I have spent more than 20 years in the industry in a variety of roles at Sybase, Siebel and Cabletron/Aprisma, to mention just a few.

Today I am going to talk about the bane of most of our existences these days: spam. Studies have shown that around 80% of all e-mail received today is spam, which is a tremendous drain on our companies in terms of infrastructure demand (to carry and store all of the spam) and lost productivity. Research has shown that spam costs a 1,000-person company that receives just 25 spam messages per user per day, $225,000 per year and 528 days in lost productivity.

I am managing an anti-spam research project at EMA and I am happy to share some of my preliminary findings with you. To date I have installed and deployed solutions from ten vendors, covering three distinct anti-spam architectures: client, server, and MSP. In order to get the most “real-world” data possible, I used EMA’s “live” mail stream for testing. Since this is an outsourcing column, I will focus on the results of my MSP research.

I reviewed four anti-spam MSPs: FrontBridge, MX Logic, Postini, and Mailblocks. FrontBridge and Postini tend to sell into mid- and large-size companies, while MX Logic generally sells into small-and-midsize businesses Mailblocks, which started as a “personal” service, primarily appeals to small businesses and home users.

I tested each vendor using a number of criteria including accuracy, ease of installation, level of support, and cost. Without giving away all of my findings (you’ll have to buy our report for that), my personal favorites are Mailblocks for personal and very small businesses and MX Logic for small- to large-businesses.

Mailblocks (, which offers free and $9.95 and $24.95 per year paid services, uses a patented “challenge/response” technology that requires people not in your address book to go to a Web page and type in a verification code in order to prove that they are legitimate (humans, at least). While this is somewhat inconvenient for unknown senders, the technology is highly effective in weeding out spam – nearly 100% accurate in my testing. The service does allow you to upload your own address list, helping to reduce the amount of e-mail “challenges.”

Unlike most anti-spam vendors, Mailblocks hosts your e-mail in addition to providing spam filtering. Suspect messages wind up in a “pending” folder that users review at their convenience. One nice feature of Mailblocks is that it supports POP/IMAP access to mail (for paying customers) enabling easy access from e-mail clients like Outlook. It also has an excellent Web interface.

One hole in Mailblocks’ solution (which will be fixed soon according to company officials) is that it doesn’t provide virus scanning. Overall, Mailblocks is a great solution for home and small business users, and I have recommended it to a number of people (I use it myself for personal e-mail).

MX Logic ( is my overall favorite for a number of reasons. The accuracy of its anti-spam engine is on par and even above other MSPs, averaging 98% in my testing. It provides three services: spam blocking, virus scanning and content filtering. The cost is very reasonable, ranging in price from $1 to $1.50 per user per month (minimum charge: $19.95/month), which makes MX Logic significantly less expensive than competitors. Incidentally, EMA recently chose MX Logic for its own anti-spam needs and we have been very happy with the service.

The other two vendors, FrontBridge and Postini, also provided high levels of accuracy and good support, albeit at a higher price than MX Logic. Since they typically sell to larger customers, this is not as much of an issue as with smaller customers, and my feeling is that at larger subscriber levels the cost differential (per user) between the vendors narrows somewhat.

In summary, I have no problem recommending any of the vendors mentioned in this column. Any of the four solutions described are easy to implement and will likely provide a rapid ROI for a minimal up-front investment-and that will make your CxOs very happy.

If you have questions, comments or ideas for upcoming articles, feel free to e-mail me: Thanks for reading.