Selecting a Spam Solution; The CPA Firm's Dilemma

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by Matthew Wilson, MCSE, MCSA, Boomer Consulting

Spam is a problem; everyone knows it. Most CPA firms know that it takes money to solve. However, most CPA firms don't know that it doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars per year. There are several ways to allocate the costs of dealing with spam.

Let the users handle it?

Many firms don't have a spam solution, and what they don't know is killing them. Each email user can spend up to an hour per day deleting email, trying to distinguish and sort the legitimate messages from the unsolicited bulk messages. This is horrifically inefficient, and studies have shown that when trying to delete spam from a long list of messages, many users will accidentally delete up to 5% of legitimate emails. In spam filtering terminology, these are called false positives. Paying someone to sort through email is not a good use of your money, mostly because people are so bad at it. Firms who don't spend money on a spam solution are losing at least 10% efficiency.

Let the IT people handle it?

A few firms use one of the below methods but divert all messages tagged as spam to a 'spambox,' which quarantines messages thought to be spam. But why pay someone $20-40 per hour to filter emails? This is very inefficient.

Buy a "Spam Appliance"?

Some firms pay $3,000-10,000 for a spam appliance to sit on the edge of their network and filter spam. This is usually cost prohibitive for smaller firms, not because of the initial equipment cost, but because of the required administration time by IT professionals, whether in-house or outsourced. However, there is another hidden cost. Usually, users must still visit a website or look in their Junk Email folder to verify that there were no false positives. While this makes the sorting process more efficient, users still must bear a significant burden. It's very annoying to still see the spam.

Install server-side software?

Some firms elect to install software on or near their mail servers that filters spam. Licensing usually costs between $20 and $50 per user, per year. The hidden administrative cost also exists here, because IT administrators must manually maintain whitelists, blacklists, content rules, and dictionaries of prohibited words and phrases, often daily in order to combat spammers' evasive techniques.

Outsource to a Spam Filtering Service?

Some firms pay a company to filter their emails offsite, and then forward the clean messages on to the firm's mail server. There are a few best-in class companies that offer such a service. Many are quite flexible with their feature offerings, but at Boomer Consulting, we make use of a service that claims to be "zero-administration."

Boomer's Solution: Let the Experts Handle it.

We recommend outsourcing to a filtering service. Your choices include MessageLabs, Postini, Appriver, MXLogic, SpamSoap, SpamStopsHere, and others. Prices can range from $5 to $50 per user per year, depending on your feature needs. We recommend choosing one that offers the "zero administration" feature. None of our users, including our IT staff, maintain whitelists, blacklists, or thresholds; nor do we have to periodically check a quarantine area of hundreds of 'caught' messages, whether at a website or in a special folder. Our spam levels have dropped at least 98%, and because we also subscribe to a free spam definition automatic updating service, we are protected from the spammers' latest techniques.

Copyright 2004, Boomer Consulting Inc. 610 Humboldt Street, Manhattan, KS 66502 1-888-266-6375

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