We had published an article called ‘13 IT Projects to Include in Your Plans for 2013’ in which we suggested 13 great IT projects for you to consider; we decided to publish some follow-up articles to help do just that.
Our seventh project suggestion was for spam filtering – here’s what we had to say:
Spam volumes continue to rise, and Outlook’s junk mail filters just are not enough anymore. 2013 can be the year you finally get a handle on spam by implementing spam filtering. Whether you deploy something on-premise or in the cloud, blocking spam, phishing, and malware infected messages before they get to your users is something everyone will appreciate.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you jump start this project:
Get senior management sponsorship
Executive sponsorship is critical to the success of any project, and it should be there from the start. Your best bet is to find someone in the IT management team who hates spam as much as you do, and wants to do something about it. That person can help sway the opinions of anyone else on the leadership team who may object to spam filtering software or the efforts to replace what you already have, and can bring the needed authority to the project to help ensure success.
Decide where you want to filter
Spam filtering can be handled at your edge, or it can be handled within the cloud. If you want ready, instant access and 100% control (and therefore, 100% responsibility) then you may want to deploy an on-premise solution. However, in addition to the control and responsibility, you also have to allocate the bandwidth and the storage for quarantine. Outsourcing the solution, whether to a hosted or cloud-based solution, may be a preferable way to go – it can save you time, money, will require no storage from you, and can save significant bandwidth.
Decide what you don’t want to filter
There will be a number of business partners, customers, and others that you won’t want to filter, even if they include content that could be considered spam. Identify the important email domains and addresses that you will need to whitelist, and get that configured up front to ensure a minimum of false positives that might skew opinions of your solution.
Find a solution that will integrate with your existing messaging
The best solutions, whether on-premise or hosted, should be able to plug into your existing system with a minimum of changes. SMTP connectors and MX records should be all you need to adjust. Be ready in advance to make quick changes by reducing the TTL of your MX records now so you can plug in and fall back quickly if needed.
Determine how you want to handle filtered email
The biggest challenge you will likely face with a spam filtering solution is handling the quarantine. Do you want your Helpdesk or email admins to deal with checking the spam trap, or do you want your users to help themselves? There’s no right answer here since it’s based on your users as much as it is your technical team’s capacity, but it’s a decision you want to make up front, and not something to figure out later. Ticket counts may go up if you keep it within IT, while self-service will require end-user training and documentation. My advice is to go with a user self-service approach, but you know your users best.
If you have more than one email domain, consider testing with the one that has fewer users before you look at the primary domain. If not, plan a weekend where you can cutover, evaluate, and then fall back if need be before Monday morning.
Let your users know well in advance of what is coming, especially if you are going to choose user self-service for checking and releasing quarantined mail. Plan on at least weekly communications starting a month before you go into production, and expect a lot of users who will still not read them or not know what to do. It’s the nature of the beast.
Make your production cutover happen on a slow weekend; if you have a three-day ‘weekend’ coming up, even better to use that, so that you can build up gradually. Pay close attention to quarantine folders, queues and if any business partners or customers didn’t get on the whitelist and be ready to update quickly if necessary.
So now you have some tips to help you get started on spam filtering as a project, along with some of the key things to be sure you include to make this project a success. Management sponsorship, project management and consensus are all every bit as important as the more technical parts, even if they aren’t quite as exciting. Spam filtering solutions will impact the entire organization, so it’s in the best interest of the entire company to make sure this is a success.