Notes shops stock their antispam arsenals

What does it take to slaughter spam? Notes/Domino administrators and industry experts offer up the secrets to their success.

A slew of antispam technology purportedly will rescue Notes/Domino shops that are drowning in a sea of unwanted e-mail, but experts say the technology is only as successful as the business strategies that accompany it.

IT analysts and Domino administrators say that assessing your hardware and then shopping for a compatible and powerful server-side e-mail filter is the best way to start attacking spam.

Next, they recommend gaining a solid understanding of Notes/Domino's built-in tools for curbing unwanted e-mail and defining rules to divert any unsolicited mail that slips through the filter to the inbox.

Sizing up spam

This year:

--35 billion unsolicited e-mails will be sent

--$979 million will be spent on antispam solutions

--55% of all active mailboxes will be protected by an antispam tool or service

Source: Radicati Group

By following these simple instructions, Domino administrators can expect to dramatically reduce the amount of unwanted e-mail they get each day. The only problem is that these steps aren't so simple for everyone.

Finding an effective server-side e-mail filter isn't easy, said Michael Hartford, senior systems analyst with Supervalu Inc., in Minneapolis, a company that runs Domino 5.0.12 and Notes 5.0.8 on an OS/390 mainframe.

"There isn't a lot of third-party [filtering] software out there that we can use on this platform," said Hartford, who will lead his company's migration to ND6.5 sometime next year.

Currently, Supervalu Inc. is using McAfee antivirus and antispam software on the server, as well as on the desktop.

"From my perspective, and from talking with other heavy mail users here, it's not as effective as we'd like it to be," Hartford said. "I'm sure there is a lot [of spam] that it stops, but there is a whole lot that gets through."

Hartford has been able to avoid some common types of spam by defining rules for automatically deleting e-mail that contains certain words and phrases, as well as e-mail that comes from specified domains. But he pointed out that this method isn't foolproof and that spam often slips through.

For folks who run Domino on platforms other than the mainframe, the selection of filters is more plentiful.

David Ferris, principal analyst with Ferris Research in San Francisco, explained that the most popular filters available include Brightmail Inc.'s Anti-Spam, Trend Micro Inc.'s Spam Prevention Service and the open source SpamAssassin.

"Most of these filters are done at the firewall, before the e-mail hits the Domino servers," said Ferris, who predicted that, in about three to four years, spam fighters will be so advanced that junk e-mail will no longer be an issue.

"Lotus Notes has some very simple antispam technology," Ferris added. "It's pretty crude stuff."

Alan Lepofsky, senior marketing manager for IBM Lotus Software, said Notes/Domino's antispam measures are far from "crude," but he acknowledged that his company intentionally included only basic spam-fighting functionality.

He said this approach lets Lotus concentrate on its core competency, the platform itself, and leaves room for business partners to create antispam offerings tailored for Domino. This in turn allows businesses to customize Domino as desired, Lepofsky said.

Teney K. Takahashi, an analyst with Palo Alto, Calif.-based research firm Radicati Group, said that the latest release of Domino includes server-based rules filtering and DNS blacklist support.

"DNS blacklist support will block e-mail, based on private or public blacklists," Takahashi said. "A wide variety of blacklists are available over the Internet, and some ... are constantly updated with known spammers' addresses."

Takahashi said that Domino also includes anti-relay controls, which protect the server from transmitting more spam. And, he added, a wide variety of third-party antispam solutions are available for Domino, and he named some of the same products that fellow analyst Ferris mentioned.

"These applications are usually used to integrate more sophisticated spam-filtering methods, such as language-based filtering and more advanced keyword filtering," Takahashi said.

Dan Juarez, senior Notes administrator with Salt Lake City-based Cusa Technologies, said his company is winning the spam war.

Cusa Technologies is running ND6.5 and uses MayFlower Software Inc.'s SpamSentinel for Lotus Notes. Juarez said the system was easy to install and that it runs on the server and desktop. But he said the desktop portion is hardly ever needed because junk e-mail rarely makes it that far.


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