Anti-spam software is not a plug-and-play solution
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Old 02-25-2007   #1
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Default Anti-spam software is not a plug-and-play solution

Soon after installing anti-spam software, a friend of mine saw a welcome reduction in the amount of spam she received. Unfortunately, after a few weeks she also noticed an unwelcome reduction in the number of Internet-based referrals she was getting for her business. Only after she spoke directly with one of her colleagues who claimed to have e-mailed her multiple times did she link the installation of the anti-spam software with the reduction in business.

The anti-spam software was identifying a lot of her legitimate personal mail as spam, and she never knew it. The result: she lost business and therefore money.

Like many adopters of this still developing software category, my friend learned the hard way that anti-spam solutions virtually never provide the "install it and forget it" solution that marketers promise. To make anti-spam software work for you rather than against you, you need to arm yourself with information before you purchase any anti-spam solution and after you install it. Use these guidelines to get started.

Choose the anti-spam software carefully
Not all anti-spam software is created equal. Each program on the market uses different algorithms for detecting spam and different methods for sequestering it. Some anti-spam software works without making you change your e-mail habits at all, while other programs require some readjusting. Most importantly, however, you should choose your anti-spam software based upon how well it detects and removes spam and how adept it is at recognising messages from legitimate sources.

Read as many reviews as you can get your hands on before trying one product over another. Currently Cloudmark's Desktop and eTrust Anti-Spam get high marks from many independent reviewers, while Symantec's Norton Anti-Spam and Mcafee's Spamkiller rank lower. Regardless of which program you try first, take advantage of the free trial version before handing over your cash for a licensed copy.

Know how it works
Even more important than choosing an anti-spam software solution is knowing how the one that you've chosen works. All anti-spam software on the market is designed to free you of the hassle of wading through dozens of spam e-mail messages every day, but all of the programs on the market also make mistakes.

So it's important for you to know three things about your anti-spam solution: where does it stash e-mail messages that the program has flagged as spam, how can you view those messages, and how can you tell the program that it has made a mistake so that the mistake is not repeated in the future.

Every anti-spam program on the market expects you to help it improve its performance over time by identifying e-mail messages that it has mistakenly marked as spam as well as those that it should have marked as spam. If you fail to do this, you'll end up with more spam than you should - and you'll miss legitimate messages that your colleagues or friends sent you.

Monitor its operation
Anti-spam software, unfortunately, cannot be categorised as "set it and forget it." For the first week after installation, you should carefully monitor the e-mail that it is flagging as spam and, when necessary, correct its mistakes. Once you are confident that the anti-spam software is doing a reasonably good job, checking its performance on a weekly basis should suffice.

Often an anti-spam program, whether it's the one built in to Microsoft's Outlook or a third-party solution such as Cloudmark Desktop, will create a special folder in your e-mail program called Spam or Junk E-Mail. It is into these folders that suspected spam will go. It's easy to forget these folders exist, but you shouldn't. It will only take you a few minutes each week to browse through the messages that have been routed into the spam folder.

Keep it updated
Spammers never stop trying to get your attention. Like virus writers, they're constantly trying new tactics. For anti-spam programs, this means that updates are needed at least on a quarterly basis to stay effective. Sometimes updating your anti-spam software is a matter of clicking a button; other times, you have to visit a Web site and download a new signature file manually. Regardless of the method required, it behooves you to keep your anti-spam solution current.

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Old 02-25-2007   #2
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Default Re: Anti-spam software is not a plug-and-play solution

All you have to do is open up a new email account and be careful who you give the address to. If you use gmail they take care of the spam for you. Anti spam programs are basically a joke.
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Old 02-25-2007   #3
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Default Re: Anti-spam software is not a plug-and-play solution

Nice writeup, Jay.

Atomic, it's not always that easy, especially at a corporate level or using a private domain for marketing purposes. The idea is that you WANT to get the e-mail address out there to legitimate people but spammers pick it up, too. Good anti-spam software (the Cloudmark engine is a favorite of mine and often licensed on other anti-spam solutions, too) can make the difference but it DOES take some tuning.

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