Spam and unsolicited emails are the biggest waste of business time today.

As defences have improved so has the cunning of the “Spammers”. Last year they embedded all messages inside pictures to avoid detection, but the latest spam tools read the text inside pictures.

So first and foremost guard your email address as you would your pin number. If you put your email address on your website, put it on as a picture or break up the email, for example “sales @ abbeysupport dot com”. Also use a hotmail or gmail address for anything you register for.

We originally started stopping spam with Microsoft’s free offering or GFI Mail essentials and these blocked between 20-75% of spam, reducing user annoyance. They only occasionally gave a false positive.

Nowadays we have moved many of our customers over to a hosted spam solution, where your emails pass through a server which receives over a million emails a day, compares their content and source and strips out 90-99% of spam. It also has the facility to send you one email digest a day of all the emails blocked just in case of false positives.

With the basic version you even get another Anti-Virus clean, for the basic price of £15 per user per year, with the real added bonus that your internet is quicker because its not downloading spam messages.

Points to remember:
1) consider a hosted spam cleaning service
2) Publish email addresses on your website as picture only
3) Use Gmail or Hotmail for all product registrations

Internet misuse by staff is another big problem for many businesses – it leads to loss of productivity, slower broadband speeds and higher risks of infection.

I am repeatedly asked by owners of businesses what can be done to stop staff wasting company time on the internet. Surprisingly perhaps my answer is always the same: make sure you have an HR policy in place saying what is considered acceptable internet use and what is not.

The second stage is to remove messenger applications such as MSN messenger and Yahoo messenger. Combining this with the blocking of major sites such as “youtube” and “facebook” will reduce internet traffic.

The final solution is a hardware device, most of you will have a Zyxel firewall and it is possible to get a subscription service that will block certain types of sites based. This costs around £100.00 a year.

If you need more control of who can access what sites when, then there are devices from around £1,000.00 which allow you to control access on a per user basis. You get reports on internet usage and can allow all users access at lunch time or outside core hours.

Points to remember:
1) Put an HR policy in place and publish it to your staff
2) Block messenger applications and social sites
3) Upgrade your firewall or purchase an Internet proxy device

About the Author: Anthony Melbourne is the founder of IT software and hardware support company Abbey Support

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