Email has become one of the central means of communication, especially in the corporate world. Having an email address is essential to any business. There are several ways to handle emails.
Free Hosted Service – Examples of these services include Hotmail (Microsoft), Yahoo, and GMail (Google). One receives an email address that looks [email protected] (e.g. [email protected]). The pros of these services is that they are free, the cons are that having a email provider that is a free host does not show the level of professionalism a business wants to demonstrate and some businesses will not even accept emails from free hosts.
Paid Hosted Service – One can also use a paid hosted service. Almost every web hosting provider offers free email hosting as part of the package. This allows you to get an email address like [email protected] but costs a little more. Hosting these days is such a commodity, however, that you really should use this option if nothing more. You can get this from any of a number of hosting providers. Two I’ve used and liked are WebSecureStores and WebStrikeSolutions. Companies such as Mail2Web offer email hosting with the added benefits of Microsoft Exchange Server functionality. Exchange Server offers calendaring and tasks in addition to regular email.
Own Email Server – There are many POP/SMTP servers out there. POP is the most popular protocol used for receiving emails, while SMTP is the most popular for sending emails. If you have Microsoft IIS then you have a POP/SMTP server. Its very bare bones and I wouldn’t recommend it as your mainstay. If you decide to go with a POP/SMTP server you should find a good one on the web, or go with the staple from Microsoft – Exchange Server 2007. Other alternatives include Zimbra and Argosoft.
If one chooses to utilize one’s own email server there is a need for an anti-spam solution. Even if one utilizes a paid hosted service one will generally need an anti-spam application. Free hosting solutions oftentimes come with advanced anti-spam built-in, but occasionally you will need an anti-spam solution for this service as well. So what sort of services should you be looking at? This depends on the email solution you have decided upon. If you are using a hosted solution, you will be handling anti-spam at the client level rather than the server level. Generally the hosted servers use some form of anti-spam, but because they don’t give you a lot of control over the anti-spam configuration they make these anti-spam procedures very permissive so they don’t block out your valid mail (in other words, the filters just eliminate the 100% definite spam).
In the client field there are many different options. Some options integrate directly into your email client (e.g. Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird), others avoid needing to have to program an add-on for the actual program and instead act as an additional layer between the hosted server and your email client. These applications receive the email, process it for spam, and then pass it on to your client.
SnapFiles.Com offers a variety of options for Microsoft Outlook and the additional layer scenario. On the other hand, if you want an add-on for Thunderbird you could try Spamato (a community based anti-spam project with multiple detection algorithms) or Knujon (an aggressive anti-spam solution somewhat similar to BlueFrog [now defunct]), or a combination of both. I personally like both – Spamato because it sorts the email for me and learns as I train it, Knujon because it makes me feel useful – I am actually helping stop spammers as opposed to just disabling them in my mailbox (and those of my Spamato community).
If one decides to go with a server level solution (e.g. Microsoft Exchange) then one can get a server-side application that processes emails. This can (and should) occur at two levels. The first level is known as the gateway. This is a server which exists (outside of the network preferably) solely to handle spam processing. All emails are delivered to it and then these emails are relayed to the main email server. This allows the spam to be filtered out and viruses stripped before they get inside of your network. You should also have anti-spam/anti-virus on your email server as well, just in case something slips by. There are several solutions in this arena. These include (at the gateway level) Symantec Mail Security for SMTP and (at the Exchange level) Symantec Mail Security for Microsoft Exchange. On the other hand, Microsoft offers an impressive new solution for both the gateway (or “edge” as they like to call it) and the Exchange server. This solution is called Microsoft Forefront and is a anti-virus solution solely. But if combined with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 in an “Edge” role can provide a complete anti-virus/anti-spam solution (integrated into Exchange 2007 under the “edge” role is anti-spam). This suite by Microsoft is especially impressive because it offers anti-virus engines for nearly a dozen different companies and allows you to run every email through several of these engines instead of just one.
In conclusion, you should have an anti-virus/anti-spam solution specifically dedicated to your email if you are hosting the email server in-house. If you are using a hosted service you will probably still need anti-spam at the client level and definitely should have anti-virus on the client side (and all servers).