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Anti-Spam options for Small Business Owners

By:Christine Fettinger

Email spam levels have risen so dramatically over the last few years that it is nearly impossible to function without a solid 3rd party Anti-spam program these days. So I felt it would be prudent to run through a variety of options available to Small Business and give my opinion and experience with each. Keep in mind that most companies I work with are using Microsoft Exchange for email.

Exchange Anti-spam: The built-in Exchange Anti-spam is rather limited in options and seems slow to update. It also has a tendency to be either too strict or too relaxed. One advantage is does have though, is that it’s free. It has gotten better in the Exchange 2007 release.

GFI Anti-spam: GFIis king when it comes to options. Everything is adjustable which I love. And once you have it set up just right, it is very solid. It does have a learning curve however, and can be difficult to troubleshoot. It also has a tendency to have database problems which will have you running to tech support to get it fixed.

Trend Micro, Symantec, McAfee: All three of these vendors are fairly unimpressive. Limited options. Seem to miss a ton of obvious spam, even when set on the higher settings. Usually comes with their Anti-virus products, which are pretty good, so they can be pretty cheap.

Cloudmark: Limited options. But actually does a pretty solid job of catching spam without catching legitimate email. Pretty inexpensive too.

MXLogic: Unlike all the previous entries, this one is a service rather then software. Email gets routed through their servers first, gets filtered, and then sent on its way. Not as many options as GFI, but still plenty for power users. And by filtering the email off-site, you lessen the load that your bandwidth and server hardware has to deal with. The default settings do a wonderful job at spam filtering.

Sonicwall Email Security: This one is a hardware device that is installed on-site and filters the email before reaching the server. Lots of options and fantastic reporting modules. Very solid spam filtering that is easily adjustable. The downside is the cost. Probably the most expensive of these options, but feature wise it is one of the best.

Obviously my favorites are MXLogic and Sonicwall Email Security. Going with Cloudmark or GFI can work pretty well too if cost is an issue. None of the Anti-virus vendors’ Anti-spam products seem any better then the built-in, and free, Exchange Anti-spam features.