Clouds of spam

Spam is a problem that just isn’t going away: all that seems to be happening is that it’s morphing, changing shape and its content is getting ever more unpleasant. A few years ago, people were genuinely trying to sell things via the internet, using spam as the vehicle via which to advertise them, but today all such pretence has flown out of the window. Spam is now simply annoying garbage and quite often a route for infection to reach your desktop – persuade the recipient to run an attachment and on a non-secured machine nasty things then happen. I’m not too impressed by all of this. Maybe I was naive, but I’d hoped this sort of nonsense would have died off by now. Instead, it’s merely become another fixture in the counter-malware (antivirus, antispyware) marketplace.

Clouds of spam

That this should be the case is a matter of considerable regret, for which it’s hard to know who to blame. Should we blame the backbone service providers that actually transport these billions of junk emails every day? Surely this is the place to stop the nonsense – filter the main arteries of the internet and that would stop the problem in its tracks. It must be consuming huge amounts of bandwidth that could otherwise be usefully employed. But their response is that it isn’t their problem, they only provide the pipe, and if you want a service contract and guarantees there are any number of companies on the internet that would provide one. I guess they don’t want to get involved because that would mean them devising a business model that made sense, was supportable, and allowed end users to reflag email held somewhere so errors could be identified and fixed. No, they’re too busy providing the pipe to do any of that.

The inevitable consequence of this abdication of responsibility is that either the small ISPs have to do the work or you must do it yourself, and frankly I think you’re better off doing it yourself. The problem has been with the management interfaces – move them too far away from the coalface workers and they get increasingly difficult to manage. Ideally, we want a solution that fits within the server engine of Exchange Server itself, one that will run quietly in the background. I accept that we’ll therefore have to pull down the emails from the ISP, but this is a small price to pay for keeping control.

I don’t like antispam engines that are built into the client desktop – unless you’re a single standalone user – but finding a really top-notch server-side product had proved hard until I was told about a product from Cloudmark. Cloudmark’s client-side antispam solution is by far the best on the planet: it’s that rarest of rare beasts, an application you can just fit and forget, which steadfastly does its work in the background and almost never gets it wrong. And it does this right out of the box, with no need to fiddle with settings, adjustments or do any of that training nonsense. Hearing of the server-side product, I rushed over to the website and there it was – a subscription-based product that you pay for, download onto your server and run, then forget about. It seemed too good to be true.

Purchasing was easy and I went for the “Ten licences for two years” option, which came to $639 (compared to $399 for one year). The pricing is designed to encourage you to buy enough seats at the start rather than add extra packs later, which is why an additional ten-user, one-year pack costs $539 ($1,078 for two years) when the 25-seat one-year is $799 and two years for $1,279. Once you get into really big seat numbers, the prices fall away steeply, with 50 users at $1,299 and 100 for $1,899. Given current exchange rates, you can just about halve these figures to get the sterling price once it comes through on your credit card.

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