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Anti-spam tools: Indispensable for harmful?

Sep 04, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMalwareMessaging Apps

* The debate over deploying an anti-spam solution

Implementing an antivirus defense in a corporate e-mail system is a no-brainer: nobody wants a virus and everybody knows they can be extremely damaging to a messaging system or network.  Implementing anti-spam defenses, on the other hand, are not as clear-cut because of the various mindsets in many enterprises. Here are some examples:

* The risk averse: Some are very worried about an anti-spam defense generating false positives and would rather not block any e-mails than risk blocking legitimate ones, a position represented in many law firms.  Some of these people are concerned about false positives as a result of using some first-generation spam filters and being stung by a large number of false positives.

* The hopeful: Some users believe that there is an anti-spam ‘magic bullet’ that can block 100% of spam while generating 0% false positives.  While many tools come close to these ideals, none of the current generation of tools is perfect, nor are they likely to be anytime soon.

* The cost conscious: Many decision-makers balk at the cost of anti-spam solutions, particularly the cost of some of the more effective systems.

* The control conscious: Some are concerned about losing control over the e-mail system and balk at any loss of control that some anti-spam solutions require.

* The unaffected: Some people just don’t have a problem with spam and some of them try to block the acquisition of anti-spam technology for their enterprises.  For example, I heard about one user at a large, U.S. company who never receives spam despite the fact that his co-workers receive significant amounts of spam and despite the fact that his company has no anti-spam defense in place.

The result is that IT managers, as well as vendors of anti-spam technology, need a multi-faceted approach to selling the advantages of anti-spam solutions. They need to educate users about the various approaches, overcome unfounded fears about what an anti-spam defense will do, and provide sufficient control to enterprises that want and need such control.

Many thanks to Andy Konecny at Ainsworth Communication Services for his significant contributions to this article.