Spam email is junk or malicious. It’s unwanted email. It got its name after Hormel’s canned pork product and the amusing 1970s Monty Python comedy sketch that featured it. Before we all christened the email plague as spam, we used to call it unsolicited commercial email (UCE). Of course, back then, the name didn’t encompass the full breadth of annoying and bad things that can come through your email.
These days, half of your email or more could be considered UCE. On top of that, the amount of malware, viruses and phishing messages assaulting our inboxes is also on the rise. If you are not using some type of filtering or blocking rules, you are probably being positively inundated.
For years, we have put our clients on a variety of tools, like built-in spam filtering in Exchange, third-party add-ons, or network appliances. At any given time, these products or a combination thereof enjoyed varying levels of success. As our spam filtering solutions matured, so did the spam methods. It’s been an arms race, and it still is.
On-premises spam filtering tools now present several challenges. Since the messages are still delivered through your network and pass through your firewall, it can be resource intensive. Your networking gear can only process so much incoming traffic at a time.
On top of the strains on networks, this exposes external IP addresses and uses additional internet bandwidth. Any manufacturer updates must be downloaded to update the scanning features, much like how antivirus works. This makes tracking zero-day and zero-hour infections challenging, since you may not have the most up-to-date filtering software.
Offload Spam Filtering Processing to the Cloud
However, there is a better way. There are a number of spam filtering vendors that offer offsite processing instead. Proofpoint Essentials is great for organizations under 1000 users that either don’t have in-house IT support or don’t have complicated email routing needs. There is also a Proofpoint Enterprise product that is designed for companies with more than 500 users and who require complex filtering rules and more granular permissions.
The Enterprise and Essentials product both use the same back-end services and have a very effective filtering system to process email while blocking spam, malware and all of the other undesirable email messages. It also has a robust tool set for creating filters and sender allow and deny lists. Proofpoint also offers phishing protection, along with both inbound and outbound filtering.
Here’s a sneak peek at Proofpoint Essentials …
The best features are in the interface. The administrative console has a tabbed setup, making it easy to get to the function you want to perform. You can easily search for messages to a single person or the entire organization. The ability to easily search for outbound mail without the need to use wildcards is very helpful. Custom filters can be created using Boolean logic for more customized filtering.
The self-service feature has tabs that can be customized by the admin to provide only the features necessary for the user to do their job. Users can track inbound and outbound mail for up to 30 days.
The easy-to-use quarantine list shows the status of messages. You can look up details on the message to see the header information, timestamp, and even get the geographic information about where the message originated from such as IP address and country code. Users can manage their own allow and block lists.
A nice feature is the inbound and outbound reporting for the last 30 days on a per-user basis:
Essentials has a number of packages available. One caveat is that all users must be on the same plan –you cannot mix Beginner with Advanced or Business with Beginner. The Business plan offers Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and has good feature set for tracking, routing and blocking inbound and outbound messages. The Advanced package has encryption that is feature rich and customizable, and the archiving feature in the Professional package has a 10-year unlimited retention.
There is always room for improvement, and Proofpoint Essentials is fully aware of this. It is a constantly evolving product. Proofpoint releases new console features or back-end updates monthly. In late 2016, due to expansion of their user base they added three additional datacenters to handle the additional mail flow.