Can the spam

Abu Dhabi's National Corporation for Tourism and Hotels tackled spam by outsourcing filtering.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  April 19, 2008

Abu Dhabi's National Corporation for Tourism and Hotels decided to tackle its unmanageable spam problem by outsourcing e-mail filtering to Google's on-demand service provider, Postini.

It's hardly a secret that regional enterprises are on the very edge of spam overload. If it's not highly-believable African war widows desiring aid in retrieving mislaid fortunes, it's a variety of get-rich-quick schemes that are flooding the inboxes of unwitting and largely, it has to be said, fed-up users.

But if users are feeling slightly overwhelmed, it's the CIO who bears the true cost of spam - having to find a solution to the deluge.

I am happy with Postini, it’s a very good product. We saw it for just 15 days and it’s now running live for more than one month with us. There are no issues at all – in fact I forgot the name of the person who installed it here!

While junk e-mail was previously little more than an irritant, the sheer volume reaching inboxes today and the now-total dependence of most organisations on e-mail as a form of communication mean that actual pertinent information is getting lost in the storm.

A number of vendors offer hardware-based filtering systems that claim to provide spam-free inboxes. Tempting as these buy-and-forget systems seemed, one CIO decided to approach the situation from a different angle.

Saleh Mohamed Al Habashi, Abu Dhabi's National Corporation for Tourism and Hotels' (NCTH) head of IT, decided that his organisation would implement a web-based filtering system from Postini, a Google subsidiary.

With an IT team of just three staff, Al Habashi needed a filtering system which was not manpower intensive. He began by conducting a survey of all the filtering products available in the market.

"Before coming to Postini, I did an evaluation of boxed products. We tested Barracuda, SonicWall Anti-Spam and SurfControl - and I came to the conclusion that investing in hardware and the maintenance of said hardware is inefficient," he says.

With this in mind, Al Habashi decided that a service-based filtering system would be the best solution, backed by a service level agreement from Postini. After a 15 day proof-of-concept testing period, the Postini system went live on January 7.

Al Habashi explains how the system works: "We have diverted our e-mail from Etisalat to Postini. What happens now is that the e-mail will not reach us - it will go directly from Etisalat to Postini, which checks it online, filters the spam and delivers it to us.

This has reduced a lot of investment in hardware and maintenance, and the service has proved to be quite reliable.

At present, says Al Habashi, 75 of his users use the Postini filtering system, although the licence supports up to 100 users: "The company is growing - the growth in the UAE is something unexpected.

New projects are arriving almost every day and the staff continue to increase in number - that's why I didn't want to order again in the future and decided to reserve the 25 for my future expansion plans.

The implementation proved to be quite straightforward, with just one person from the integrator needed to install and configure the system.

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