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Stock your anti-spam tool chest

business Updated: Jul 30, 2007 10:43 IST

IANS
Highlight Story

E-mail users today can't afford to ignore spam. The unwanted e-mail that clogs inboxes everywhere costs people time, and time, of course, is money.

If you're curious about exactly how much spam is costing you on either a personal level or a corporate level, you can check in at Computer Mail Service's handy Cost of Spam Web site (http://www.cmsconnect.com/Marketing/spamcalc.htm).

There you'll be able to break down how much you lose in salary and productivity by dealing with average amounts of spam.

One example: a company with 200 employees, each of whom must deal with an average of 25 spam e-mail messages per day, is probably losing over 100 days per year in lost productivity.

The bottom line: spam has to be addressed if you're to remain productive. The good news is that good anti-spam tools are available for at various price points - and some are even free - to help you deal with the mess of unwanted e-mail.

Free tools

Nothing's better than free, and when it comes to protection of spam, there are plenty of free solutions available. What you give up when you go with a free over a paid offering is generally some ease of use and regular updates. But those tradeoffs are acceptable to many, and some spam protection is better than none.

Spamato (http://www.spamato.net) is one of the easiest to use free anti-spam solutions. It comes in versions that integrate with a number of popular e-mail programmes - including Outlook, Thunderbird, and Mozilla Mail - and works as a standard spam filter, routing suspecting spam messages into a special folder.

Unlike some free anti-spam programmes, Spamato does not rely on just one method for filtering out spam. Instead, six different filters help the programme to identify unwanted junk mail from a variety of angles. You can review the messages that Spamato moves out of your inbox and, by clicking a button, report undetected spam as well as messages wrongly identified as junk mail. When using the Spamato with Outlook, the makers of Spamato recommend that you turn off Outlook's built-in junk e-mail filtering for best results.

Spamihilator (http://www.spamihilator.com/), another free anti-spam tool, installs itself as a background process on your computer and waits for you to retrieve you e-mail. When you do, the programme goes to work, placing suspected junk e-mail in Spamhilator's own recycle bin rather than in a folder within your e-mail programme.

This approach may be preferable to those who prefer not to have junk e-mail stored anywhere within their e-mail programme. You can use the Spamhilator programme later to inspect the e-mail that's been redirected and to train the programme when it incorrectly identifies e- mail as junk.

POPFile (http://popfile.sourceforge.net/) is widely considered one of the best free anti-spam tools around. Essentially, POPFile is a mail sorter - it can sort out all of your incoming mail by any criteria you establish. But it also has a full-fledged built-in spam filter that attacks unwanted incoming e-mail and routs it to a folder of your choice.

Fee-based solutions

Any anti-spam software or service should provide you with two things over free solutions: better protection against spam - with fewer incorrectly flagged messages - and transparency. Most of the free anti-spam offerings on the market require more user intervention at every stage - to look at the e-mail waiting on your e-mail server, to identify or double-check the messages that have been flagged as potential spam, or to sort through messages that have been directed to a spam folder to make sure they're not legitimate.

Cloudmark's Desktop for Outlook or Outlook Express (http://www.cloudmark.com/desktop/) comes closest to the "set it and forget it" anti-spam solution that most want. Once installed, Cloudmark can pretty much be ignored.

The programme quickly examines incoming mail and directs spam messages to a special Spam folder that it creates in your e-mail programme. Its accuracy in identifying spam from legitimate mail comes in part from Cloudmark's use of a collaborative security network, consisting of over one million e-mail users who send feedback to Cloudmark about which messages are spam and which are not.

The system seems to work: rarely will Cloudmark's Desktop incorrectly flag a legitimate message as spam, although it will occasionally fail to move a spam message into the Spam folder. When that happens, you can become part of the collaborative security network by highlighting the message and clicking the Block button that's installed in a toolbar of your e-mail programme. Cloudmark Desktop is available in a free trial version. Thereafter, though, you'll need to pay 39 dollars per year for the service.

For corporate users, two tools are getting good reviews from users. One, Barracuda Spam Firewall (http://www.barracudanetworks.com), is a hardware and software solution, coming in the form of a network appliance that can be integrated into a current corporate network. Barracuda provides not only spam protection but also antivirus, anti-phishing, and anti-spoofing. It's priced at about 2,000 dollars, but evaluation units can be requested.

Symantec also provides a well-reputed corporate-level anti-spam offering in its Mail Security Enterprise Edition (http://www.symantec.com/enterprise/products/overview.jsp?pcid=1008&pvid=1161_1)

Symantec claims that its anti-spam filtering is among the best in the business, misidentifying legitimate mail only once out of every 1 million tries. If your company already uses Symantec for other security reasons - such as anti-virus - then looking at adding this software-based solution makes sense.