Mail Security Service Model Marches On

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-06-24 Print this article Print

Opinion: A service approach to e-mail security has been a good idea for a while, and it got a big boost recently with the announcement of a partnership between IBM and MessageLabs.

I love the service model. Some guys (Im one of them) like running their own systems and tuning them and being "self-sufficient," but for almost any real company out there running your own perimeter, security is not core to your business. Why not hire someone else to do it? Even IBMs in the business now. E-mail security is a great candidate for outsourcing for a number of reasons. E-mail is critical, but people expect a delay of some kind in delivery. Routing it through someone elses network is not unreasonable, if the delay is kept fairly short.

There are a few big companies providing services for e-mail security. Theres SpamShark from FrontBridge Technologies (Ziff Davis Media uses this service for mail); MessageLabs, which recently announced a reseller agreement with IBM; and Postini, which claims to be the fourth largest processor of e-mail in the United States. There is also eDoxs, which offers the Brighmail AntiSpam suite in an ASP model (Brightmail is now owned by Symantec).

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
So there are lots of choices in the e-mail security service space, and if you dont like what youre getting youre in a much better position to take your business elsewhere than if you had set up security products running in your own data center.

The list of advantages to the service model is long and appealing. The service provider sees a lot more mail than your IT people do, so they are more likely to see and deal with new threats than you can. They scan everything with multiple scanners. They have people on staff who specialize in identifying new threats. Some of them will queue up your mail if your servers go down. They protect your networks against dictionary and other harvesting attacks, and the spam they block never gets to your network to clog up your bandwidth.

Next Page: No guarantees.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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