Tips on beating back the tide of spam emails

Don't you just love it when someone sends you stock picks as spam? What's the point of that? What idiot buys stock based on spam? For that matter, who refinances their home from spam? So much spam, and so little of it has any value at all. But it's great at stealing value from you, as it wastes otherwise productive time.

The spam invasion isn't going to go away anytime soon, but if you want to reclaim your inbox, not to mention your time and money from the spam evildoers, read on for some guidelines on fighting spam in your office.

Run a spam filter. Run your own filter as software on your email server or email client, or install a gateway device (or service) that will filter all email before it reaches your server and wastes precious resources such as storage space. At this point, every hosted email service filters spam somehow. So if your email is outsourced and your provider isn't doing a good enough job at filtering, then look for an external anti-spam service.

If your business is very small (five people or fewer), then you could probably stick with individual desktop spam filtering software. Larger companies can make use of a centrally deployed anti-spam solution and take advantage of features such as global whitelists and blacklists.

Make sure that your software or firmware, for a hardware server, is up to date. The spam war is constantly escalating, so adding the newest improvements to your anti-spam solution is critical. By upgrading to the latest version, you ensure that you are getting the latest rule set.

Use whitelist and blacklist features. You should use these both personally and company-wide if possible. Whitelisting a sender ensures that you receive all of that sender's emails, and blacklisting blocks all of them. The first thing to do when running a new anti-spam solution is to whitelist all of your colleagues and friends.

Train your anti-spam solution. Bayesian filters learn from you, so be sure to flag spam. That way the product will have a greater chance of recognising email that you believe to be spam.

Don't be afraid to tweak your solution's settings. The mix of email that each business receives is different, so be sure to adjust settings to match your conditions. If too much spam is getting through, make the rules more restrictive. If too many legitimate emails are being quarantined, then loosen the rules a little.

Technology isn't the complete answer to the spam problem – user education is important. Teach your users not to give away their email addresses to suspicious sites. Tell them not to reply to spam, because that only confirms addresses. It's up to all of us to work together to defeat the evil tide of spam.

One final note – if you’re after our recommendations for anti-spam solutions for business, check out Symantec and Trend Micro’s offerings.