Maximise Employee Productivity Through An Anti-Spam Server

The phrase “maximising productivity” often conjures images of us increasing efficiency in the creation of our products. How can we get our product completed faster and with less effort? But there is more to this phrase than that! Your productivity can also be greatly increased by eliminating small things that waste time. In this way a server anti-spam solution increases your productivity indirectly by de-cluttering inboxes, allowing employees to find and action their messages quickly and effectively.

Spam also wastes administrator time as they have to deal with the malware that is introduced into the network through spam. If that malware spreads throughout the company IT infrastructure, your organisation will suffer downtime while its systems are properly cleaned. That would be extremely costly in terms of productivity.

Simply installing any anti-spam solution on your mail server is not enough to provide protection and a productivity boost. You also need to ensure you make the proper choice of anti-spam solution, installing the most effective configuration. Why? Read on to find out.

False Positives and False Negatives

Simply having an anti-spam solution is only part of the story. Your anti-spam solution also needs to be properly tuned to prevent false positives (these are legitimate emails that get caught by mistake as spam) and false negatives (spam that is classified as legitimate mail and let through).

In case of false positives, your company will suffer a loss of productivity because your employees waste time tracking down important emails. Worse, you could even miss out on opportunities because an email that required attention was never delivered to the recipient.

False negatives, while not as bad as false positives, open your business up to the same risks as if you had no anti-spam solutions at all. It only takes one malicious email to start a chain reaction that might result in your IT infrastructure suffering downtime.

So what can be done to ensure an Effective Setup?

An effective server anti-spam solution is a mix of having the correct features and the right setup. There are several technologies that a server anti-spam solution should use, and each of them has its strengths and weakness. Here’s a quick list for reference:

  • Whitelisting – This is an excellent option to ensure that no legitimate emails from critical sources are ever blocked. [It is strong against false positives, but can cause false Negatives.]
  • Greylisting – This is effective at stopping emails sent from botnets, rather than real mail servers. [It helps to reduce false negatives, and does not affect false positives.]
  • SPF (Sender Policy Framework) – Effective at stopping emails that spoof their origin. [It is effective against false negatives, while in nearly every case it does not affect false positives.]
  • Databases – Good anti-spam solutions have various databases that contain fingerprint information on various elements found in spam and phishing emails. [This is strong against false negatives, and does not affect false positives.]
  • DNSBL – Effective at stopping email sent from origins that have been caught sending spam in the past [It is strong against false negatives, but can cause false positives.]
  • Bayesian – It is effective at detecting the latest spam trends, provided it has been given up-to-date training, either by you or the vendor. [It is strong against false negatives, but can cause false positives.]

There is no clear set of options that will ever give you a 100% accuracy rate. However, if you ensure that the server anti-spam solution you use has a good quarantine system, and you give users access so that they can check if any legitimate mail was caught by mistake, you can still save considerable time. Each minute that your employees gain by not having to pick their way through countless junk mail to find that one important message is a minute they can spend productively at their job. By selecting a good anti-spam solution, you keep your workforce running smoothly, while also maintaining a healthy IT infrastructure with minimal downtime.

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Emmanuel Carabott CISSP heads security research at GFI Software. He has over 12 years’ experience in the security field and is a regular contributor to several websites and blogs. For more information about the benefits of using email usage reporting.