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Backstage with. . . Mark Gibbs

Mar 08, 20044 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMessaging Apps

Mark GibbsNetwork World launches its newest Technology Tour, Messaging and spam: From chaos to control, later this month. Keynoting the tour is Network World Columnist Mark Gibbs. Network World Events Editor Sandra Gittlen recently spoke with Gibbs about the dire effect spam and other issues are having on electronic messaging.

The state of electronic messaging is in disarray thanks to spam, liability issues and loss in productivity. What do you see as the breaking point for electronic messaging?

The breaking point for general electronic messaging between corporations and the rest of the world would occur when spam reaches the ‘magic threshold.’ This is the point at which the value of SMTP messaging becomes so low that it has no effective business relevance. But this will depend on how good we get at filtering spam out.

Abandoning e-mail will not be an option. For power users who are customer-facing there won’t be a choice – in many businesses the value of communicating with consumers through e-mail is so significant that there is no way to conceive of stopping.

On the other hand, where the power user is communicating with external business partners, both corporate and personal whitelists will become a powerful tool to control the volume of spam.

There are many companies that claim to solve the spam problem. Can the spam problem ever be completely solved?

The spam problem can never be completely solved because there will always be a gray area where one man’s meat is another man’s spam. A reasonable target for spam detection should be 99% – the goal is to contain the scale of spam.

Do you see the face of electronic messaging changing drastically? Will we someday be communicating over a system that looks nothing like the one we have today? Or will we continue to make modifications to today’s e-mail architecture?

I would put cold, hard cash on the future’s messaging systems being based on an evolutionary path that is based on today’s standards – we have too much infrastructure that supports and relies on SMTP, POP3 and [Internet Message Access Protocol] to dispose of. This means that the only viable alternative is to morph these standards into architectures that are progressively more mature in how they deal with spam and at the same time allow for backward compatibility.

Where does instant messaging and similar types of communication fit into the picture? Already we’re hearing about spam IM or ‘spim.’ Seems like one more headache for IT departments to deal with.

Every advance in digital communications gives rise to new headaches (and for that matter, migraines). Instant messaging is no different. IM’s role is as a counterpoint to store-and-forward messaging – it provides real-time connection and presence but demands more attention than e-mail. I see IM becoming as much of a standard as e-mail and the two systems becoming closely related in normal business communication. Spim is a consequence of the openness of IM systems, but given IM’s relative youth it is likely that the problem will be addressed before it becomes out of control as spam has become.

What are five things network managers can do to get their electronic messaging houses in order? How can they start to re-evaluate their systems?

First, network managers need an in-depth understanding of how their organizations communicate and how the organization wants to communicate in the future. Then they need to understand how their current systems function with respect to current and future needs. Third, they need to analyze the impact that spam is having and tie that down to real costs. Fourth, knowing what is wrong they need to understand what solutions exist and how those solutions can be applied to their particular circumstances. Finally, they need to integrate all of the information they gathered in the first four steps, and build an argument that they can take to senior management to get the budget to install solutions.

What the Network World Messaging Tour will help them with is in understanding and articulating their problems and in learning how their problems can be addressed.

We’ll be slicing and dicing messaging technology from architectures through spam to content control and even run through financial modeling to build a case for action.