After reviewing RFP responses from more than 30 anti-spam vendors, eWEEK Labs and service provider WiscNet invited six companies to show what they could do to help WiscNet solve its spam problem.
The results, following, are based on WiscNets installation and initial use of each product in a variety of test environments that sought to simulate the vastly different constituencies that WiscNet serves. These include elementary-school, high-school and college students; faculty and administrators at all levels of education; and library staff.
In addition to comparing products side by side, we wanted to evaluate the different methods of implementation: software, hardware appliance and service.
We were surprised to find that the method of delivery is not as important as we thought it would be. For example, both Brightmail Inc.s software system and FrontBridge Technologies Inc.s service advocate a hands-off management approach. Likewise, both Postini Corp.s service and ActiveState Corp.s software products can be used out of the box without tuning but also let end users and administrators make changes to the way filters work based on specific user needs. Price will likely be the biggest differentiator in terms of platform choice.
Flexibility in administration was the No. 1 requirement for the WiscNet judges. Because it serves such varied members, WiscNet needs to be able to tune whatever solution it deploys in many different ways.
Judges representing the K-12 education constituencies, for example, said they would not want students to have access to quarantined e-mail, while judges from Wisconsin-area colleges said they need to be able to allow their professors a wide berth while granularly controlling access for students, administrative staff and many other groups.
WiscNet needs more flexibility than most organizations will, but there are few organizations that wont need to do some tuning and perhaps different tuning for different users. For example, an organizations executive-level managers may require access to filtered e-mail, while the clerical staffs filtered e-mail could be deleted without any quarantine at all.
However, generally speaking, we recommend that organizations put this kind of spam identification flexibility low on their list of anti-spam requirements. As the eWEEK eVal unfolded, we started to buy into the idea that spam is spam, and it should just be eradicated.