As much as I love email and see it as an acceptable form of marketing, I'm very anti spam. When someone joins one of our lists, they only get what they signed for - nothing more. Unfortunately, not all webmasters share the same view, although it's only a very small minority who do spam - it's just that they do it in a big way. And that makes it hard for all of us who suffer from anti spam measures.
Still, I can see why
people are using anti spam tools, challenge/response email filtering and blocking services - we probably get 10x more
unsolicited email than most. And it's not just spam marketing that's a
concern, it's also the email viruses that inundate our boxes. During the
SoBig virus onslaught, we received over 91,000 email viruses, which blew our
bandwidth caps. Needless to say, we were eager to prevent this from happening
We were lucky that our hosting service decided soon after to install server side anti spam and anti virus software, which is currently being tested with excellent results. But for those not so lucky to have this feature; I decided to take a look at a few remotely hosted services currently available.
How do anti-spam services work?
Remotely hosted email blocking and filtering services are a great way to go as the hard work of configuration and security is taken care of by another company.
Basically what happens is that you give the service access to your mailbox. That way friends, colleagues and clients still write to you at your usual address - the service "plugs in" to your existing email setup. You also continue to send mail via your normal address.
The anti spam service then automatically checks your inbox and collects your email and processes it.
Any email from an 'unapproved' address is responded to with an email by the filtering service requesting the person to take further action to allow the email to be received by you. Once the action has been taken, future email from that person is automatically deemed "clean" and will go straight through to you. This is known as "challenge/response" filtering.
As most spammers broadcast to tens of thousands of email addresses in each instance, they won't concern themselves with going to the trouble of getting their message to you, whereas valid mail senders will react to a challenge/response setup.
If you subscribe to a lot of newsletters, all you really need then is a free email account to send these to, or to configure your filtering service to permit emails from selected organizations.
A good anti-spam service will also recognize virus emails and stop these dead in their tracks.
collect your mail, you simply use your standard email program. Only a minor
adjustment to your POP3 settings is usually necessary in order to collect
your mail. Once set up, which only takes a few minutes, the whole process is
seamless from there on in. All you should receive is clean mail, free of
spam and viruses.
What to look for in anti-spam filtering/blocking filtering
Spam blocking and filtering solutions have rapidly gained popularity due to the increasing problems of unsolicited email and viruses. There's some great services out there, but as with anything else, there's some shocking ones.
After reviewing a number of services, I've put together these points to look for when you go to review a mail filtering solution for yourself:
A challenge/response service that I recently tried which fulfills all the above criteria is Spam Arrest. The signup was simple and they offer an automatic configuration process for people who aren't comfortable with adjusting their mail settings. The service works well and survived the tests I carried out admirably. Spam Arrest offer a 30 day free trial - it's well worthwhile checking out.
Spam and viruses are unfortunately here to stay. The cost to industry and individuals in dealing with these darker aspects of web life in terms of time are astronomical. With our inboxes flooded, it's so much easier to accidentally delete communications from clients and friends - but at least now there are many alternatives to just using the delete button.
Ever been accused of spamming? It's not a pleasant experience, especially if you're innocent. Review some tips and strategies in handling spam complaints.
Given the current trend of governments actively pursuing spammers, and the inevitable consequences of them probably only successfully prosecuting those who least deserve it; it's time to review email marketing strategies.
If you're one of the many people wondering how spammers and virus writers get your email address in the first place, learn more in this article:
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In Loving Memory - Mignon Ann Bloch
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