I have owned my own domain and used the same email address since the late 1990’s. Back then, I wasn’t very savvy about hiding my address from email harvesters. Believe me, I get a TON of spam.
I’ve also hosted my domain using shared cPanel hosting for nearly 10 years. I’ve researched and tried various popular anti spam solutions over the years. Spam Assassin, BoxTrapper and Postini/Google Apps are a few that didn’t live up to my hopes.
I can’t tell you how skeptical I was when Carel Bekker of ClickHOST told me he was adding a spam-fighting option to all hosting accounts for free. It might as well been a truck load of free phone books. I’m talking zero excitement. Zero expectations. I agreed to try SpamExperts and post my thoughts.
What is SpamExperts?
Imagine an uninvited Miley Cyrus trying to get into your house. Someone meets her at the front gate and politely directs her down a path that in reality leads to another house where she cannot ever bother you again. That’s my metaphor for how SpamExperts works.
SpamExperts’ cloud-based security filter shows spam and virus email traffic to the door so to speak. Malicious messages don’t make it to your desktop. They don’t even make it to your server. I think of it as sort of a CloudFlare for email.
Why Users Should Care
There is really only one feature that I care about in anti spam software: the filter. Like most email users I just want to be left alone and without the creeping feeling that I’m missing emails. SpamExperts reports a 99.98% filtering accuracy which means the baby shouldn’t get thrown out with the bathwater. If the most important feature, the “incoming filter” can come that close to 100% accuracy over time, then I’m going to be naming my firstborn after it. Well, maybe not. I’ll find something.
Why Your Web Host Should Care
Let’s go beyond looking at things from the single user’s perspective and survey the larger picture. Imagine if you are the web host (I’d love to own a hosting company). You have several customers on the same server with all having the same IP address (a typical shared hosting service). If one of the accounts gets hacked for the purpose of sending spam emails, the IP may eventually get blacklisted by ISPs. If it’s Bubba’s ISP Service that your mother-in-law uses, well, that may be okay. But, if it’s AT&T, Comcast or AOL, you just lost the ability to communicate with a large part of the world.
At this point, the web host is panicking because all of the customers on his server with this IP have been blacklisted and will have trouble sending mail until the listing can be repaired. Blacklisted IP addresses can be removed but in my experience, it is a long and painful process. In this scenario, none of the other customers on the server will know this happened and will probably be pretty upset when they find out their email messages are bouncing.
“But I’m an innocent customer and didn’t send spam. I don’t deserve to be blacklisted!”
Are you sharing a server with someone who was hacked by a spammer? Too bad. If you lay down with dogs (who don’t wear flea collars), you get fleas.
Now you see the need for the outgoing filter that SpamExperts provides. Not only does the owner of your hosting service sleep a little easier, but customers have less chance of getting in trouble with ISPs for someone else’s issue.
SpamExperts vs. Postini
The most workable tool I’d used up to this point for combating spam was Postini. I signed up for Postini not long after Google purchased the company to make it a part of Google Apps. Setting up the service and getting it to work proved to be extremely difficult and took a long time. The only option for support, even though I was a paying customer turned out to be the Google Product Forums (productforums.google.com). I researched setting up the service and posted several times seeking answers (I loathe this method of customer support because you have to post sensitive details about your business to a thread which cannot be deleted if replies are added).
When I maxed out the aggressiveness on what to filter in Google Postini, I was met with a sledgehammer effect. Spam filters should be flyswatters. Otherwise you’re just filtering everything and getting whitelisted emails. This may actually be okay for some but most people want to be able to receive emails from sources they may not know, friends, business or job contacts, etc. On at least one occasion, Google Apps/Postini quarantined legit messages from other Google-owned services. Amazing. And even, quarantined the competition. That’s right, Google ain’t gonna let SpamExperts through. No way 🙂
It didn’t take long for me to realize that SpamExperts was working far better than Google Apps/Postini. I had to do some research and post a few times to the Google product forums but finally found a way to open a ticket to cancel Postini. Funny thing is that I started seeing newsletters from ages ago that I’d subscribed to and forgotten about. Postini had be wrongly blocking them! I hadn’t seen them in the quarantine queue or taken the time to whitelist them. I recall that one of them was from Visual.ly, the infographic creation service which I like.
What were the results after testing SpamExperts for one month?
- An estimated three quarters of all my mail messages were quarantined.
- A few spam messages per day at most made it to my inbox.
- 1 non-spam message was mistakenly quarantined.
With only one false positive in one month, I have been more than pleased so far. SpamExperts as implemented by ClickHOST covers all email addresses on my domain. Everyone benefits. My wife immediately noticed a huge drop in spam (don’t tell her I said this, but she signs up for too many store catalogs and offers). I can’t tell you how glad it made me that she no longer had to waste time sorting through so many unwanted emails.
This post is not meant to cheerlead for SpamExperts. I cannot say if SpamExperts will be the dominant anti spam solution in the decades to come. For all I know, the company could disappear tomorrow.
What can I tell you? Unlike any other anti spam tool that I’ve tried, it’s working… So well that I’m liable to forget that SpamExperts is even running on my server. I might even get more work done as a result!
Check out the SpamExperts Case Study featuring ClickHOST for more reading.
Disclaimer: Emory Rowland is President of Leverable, a company that has a CPA agreement with ClickHOST and may receive compensation for sales. Leverable performs SEO consulting for ClickHOST and hosts several domains with ClickHOST.