SPAM Filtering Services Reviewed
October 6, 2010

How Can I Eliminate SPAM Emails From My Inbox?


Often, our clients or potential clients ask the question, "Can you do anything to minimize the number of SPAM emails I get in my inbox?" So we thought it would be interesting to explain a little bit about SPAM, where it comes from and what we do to stop it.
 
First, I would like to start off by explaining that we do not charge our clients for email service. We include it for free when you host your website with Cybernautic. With that in mind it's important to understand two things. Number one, just because it's free doesn't mean it's no good. In fact, the opposite is true, which leads me to number two: because the service is 'free' it is in our best interest to minimize SPAM because the more SPAM you get, the more it clogs our network. When our network gets clogged with things like SPAM, we have to spend more money to buy bigger 'pipes' to transmit information. You could say that SPAM costs us money. So, it is in our best interest to completely eliminate SPAM from your inbox. I want to start with that so you understand that we are not biased toward particular piece of software unless it's the best performing piece of SPAM-elimination software on the web.
 
There are numerous aspects to managing and eliminating SPAM so for the sake of simplicity we're going to focus on the two that we consider to be the most important. The most important job of any anti-SPAM software is to eliminate as much SPAM as possible. The second most important job of any anti-SPAM software is to do so without also eliminating real emails (something we also call false-positives).
 


ELIMINATE AS MUCH SPAM AS POSSIBLE

 

We believe the most important part of SPAM elimination is....drum roll please...eliminating SPAM! For us, your host, we want to stop as much SPAM as possible at the network level. This means, we want to remove SPAM messages when they are delivered to our network so that we don't have to transmit them to your inbox. There are several programs available to handle this very task. Some of the most popular are :Postini (by Google)
MX Logic (by McAfee)
Trend Micro
 
In the enterprise world, the widely-accepted level of SPAM elimination accuracy is considered to be 80%. This means that if the anti-spam software at the network level (the Cybernautic level) successfully removes 80% we're doing an acceptable job. To the right you can see some statics on the accuracy of SPAM removal from some of the top anti-SPAM software companies. Postini (by Google) currently leads the market by successfully removing an average of 94.0% of legitimate SPAM messages before those messages even reach your inbox! Next is MailFrontier with 89.4% and then Active State with 89.4%.
 
This has obviously led us to give Postini serious consideration because it eliminates a significantly greater percentage of SPAM than most of the others.
 


FALSE POSITIVES


The second most important thing to us is minimizing false positives. A false positive is a good email message that the SPAM filter believes is spam and accidentally filters that email message. This happens most frequently when someone sends you an email  message that contains 'red flag' words (you know the kind of words I'm talking about). :) But this can also happen when the sender sends a lot of email messages to a lot of people on a regular basis. For example, if I regularly, send 400 people the same email messages, eventually someone in that list will report my emails as SPAM and my email address will be 'blacklisted.' When your email address gets blacklisted, someone networks will simply not accept any email from you and some networks will hold your messages to a higher anti-SPAM standard. But these are not the only reasons a message can become a false-positive. There are numerous reasons for this and our job is to minimize the number of false-positives so you don't lose any legitimate emails.
 
The industry-standard acceptable rate of false positives is widely considered to be less than 1%. That means your anti-SPAM software should never accidentally misjudge legitimate emails more than 1% of the time. Again, I'll refer to the statistics to the right. Postini tops the chart by misjudging SPAM messages .4% of the time, followed by MX Logic .5% of the time. Both of those rates are outstanding, so those were the two most important software packages that we considered for minimizing false-positives.


CONCLUSIONS


Postini, is clearly the best solution for eliminating SPAM if your top priorities are accuracy in removing SPAM and minimizing false-positives. So in 2006, we entered into a partnership with Google (the owner of Postini) to provide Postini spam-filtering services to ALL Cybernautic customers completely free of charge. Why would we do that for free? Because it the more of your SPAM we can eliminate from our network, the more money we save in network expansion...and it's a lot cheaper to eliminate the SPAM than it is to accommodate it!

 


What Else Can I do to Eliminate SPAM Emails?


Here are a few suggestions to help you minimize the amount of SPAM you receive:

  1. Try to avoid posting your email address on public websites. I know, we at Cybernautic post the email addresses of our sales guys on our public website...we're breaking rule number one. But we're willing to deal with one extra SPAM email per day to make sure our customers can contact us easily. Why avoid this? Because SPAM companies deploy something called SPAMbots. SPAMbots are automated programs that scan webpages looking for the "@" symbol and when they find it they search the text around it to see if they've found an email address. If so, they add your email address to their SPAM list and the next time to send SPAM, guess who's going to get a new SPAM message...
  2. When you fill out email forms online, if there is a check box that says something like "Please send me regular updates" uncheck it unless you want to receive regular updates.
  3. Work with a professional web management company like Cybernautic to help you minimize SPAM and adhere to industry-standard best-practices for avoiding SPAM lists.

 
To learn more about hosting your website and email addresses (with Postini SPAM filtering) with Cybernautic, contact Dave at (yeah, I know we're breaking rule 1 again) dave@cybernautic.net.