Network & Information Security The Epic Struggle against Spam: SpamTitan Comes to the Rescue as SMEs face a Rising Tide of Spam
Sep 24, 2007 – By Barry Zellen, www.technologyinnovator.com
Like the Monty Python song goes: Spam spam spam spam; Spam spam spam spam. An endless deluge of spam has been flooding the inboxes of individuals and enterprises for years, but until recently, SMEs were largely spared the agony.
Off the radar scopes of most spammers, who bulk targeted enterprise email addresses and individual email addresses from the larger ISPs, the SMEs have begun to lose the sanctuary provided by their small size, and the uncommon nature of their email addresses that eluded most harvesting techniques. Especially since the advent of botnets, SMEs have entered the fray, drawn in to this epic struggle against the rising tide of electronic mayhem, as the relentless deluge of spam continues to clog the electronic arteries of corporate America.
For the enterprise, spam has long been a huge and expensive problem requiring an increasing slice of the IT and security budgetary pie. And for many ISPs, it’s required an expensive anti-spam effort to ensure the security of their customers, and their continued loyalty. For the SME, this sudden onslaught of spam can be the kiss of death, paralyzing operations as the inboxes of these understaffed organizations jam up with thousands of unwanted, unsolicited spams. Finding an easy-to -use, easy-to-afford solution to this mushrooming spam epidemic could thus save a company as small as a mom and pop operation or as large as a global enterprise, significant time, resources, and stress.
And we know: last year we found we were spending several hours each day sifting through our inbox looking for legitimate, business-critical correspondence; and almost as much time sifting through our spam folder looking for false positives that got tagged as spam but which contained untold riches and opportunity. As part of our search for a solution to this growing nemesis of businesses both large and small, we spoke with Ronan Kavanagh, sales director of Galway, Ireland-based SpamTitan, a provider of both physical and virtual appliances that protect users from the spam deluge.
SpamTitan’s name was itself reason enough to seek out a briefing: the Random House unabridged dictionary describes a titan as “a person or thing of enormous size, strength, power, influence,” and the origins of the word hark back to ancient Greek mythology, to the family of giants born to Uranus and Gaea, including their sons Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Oceanus, who sought to rule heaven and were overthrown and supplanted by the family of Zeus. We find ourselves locked into our own epic struggle against an invisible nemesis, so this etymological link to ancient Greek mythology sounded promising. If the company can live up to the epic and glorious nature of its name, we figured, it’s definitely worth a conversation – and maybe even a download of the free trial version I found at www.spamtitan.com.
Among the first questions we had for Kavanagh was the genesis of SpamTitan’s name, and he explained, “We thought long and hard about it, and the first thing we wanted, since the product is very much focused on an online sales and deployment process, so bearing that in mine, we wanted spam in the name, so people could find us” when searching online, using Google and other search engines. As for “the Titan element,” that emerged from “just a lot of thought of what we wanted to put out there,” suggesting “strength, protection, we wanted something that basically, you hear it, you know exactly what it does – that’s what we focused on and that s what we got – and we’re happy with it.”
SpanTitan’s solution, and the pricing and distribution model used by its virtual appliance solution, holds much promise, for a wide spectrum of customers, from the SME seeking simplicity, ease of deployment and a low price point to the enterprise struggling with growth, geographical expansion or changing locations, for whom a virtual appliance makes strategic sense. Without a box to move, or reconfigure, getting bigger and expanding one’s corporate footprint won’t become complex or expensive. It also holds promise for the SME sector, generally lacking the in-house IT capabilities to manage a physical appliance: the easily downloaded solution sits well with the technically challenged, as well as the resource-starved. SpamTitan recently announced it had been certified by VMware to join its Virtual Appliance Marketplace, a vote of confidence from one of virtualization’s masters of the universe. All good stuff that made us curious to learn more.
Spam Increasingly Targets the SME
Our sense that spam was on the rise, and increasingly affecting smaller businesses than before, was reinforced by our conversation with Kavanagh, who observed, “We’ve seen it change within probably the last twelve months to a year-and-a-half, becoming much more dynamic.” He added that “small organizations noticed a change, and we’ve noticed that change from a number of different factors – the singular biggest change is in the sheer volumes of spam that have continued to emerge. In the last 12 months, there’s been a doubling of the volumes of spam a least.” This has been the “biggest singular effect that has impacted us,” both “to our physical appliance as well as our virtual appliance,” as SpamTitan has “had to upgrade a lot of those appliances just to deal with the sheer capacity in volumes that have shown themselves out there.”
In addition to the “sheer volumes of spam being seen out there,” Kavanagh observed that “one of the big things that we saw” that’s been having an “impact on the SME sector” was in the “methods adopted by spammers,” and “the biggest single impact is the use of botnets by spammer,” which are used to harvest email addresses off PCs and servers.
The result of this is that SMEs are “starting to see spam when in the past they didn’t.” In the past, he noted, “people were advised, ‘use a secondary email address online and don’t respond to spam messages, don’t give business cards out to people on the street, and basically you should be fine,’ but now botnets are corrupting computers, taking e-mail out of computers,” and the upshot is that “people that never got spam in the past are getting spam now” and this is “affecting the people in the five and ten people organizations” who were “not getting spam in the past.” So now, “as a result they need the same level of solution that the enterprise level needs, and the same level of functionality.”
So while “a lot of SME customers had something in place to stop spam,” Kavanagh has found that “they were looking around because it just wasn’t good enough or offered limited functionality,” and that their “solution is almost as difficult to deal with as the problem – a particular challenge for a small organization if you don’t have a large IT staff.”
Indeed, so widespread were these “problems with solutions that upwards of 90 percent said they had an existing solution in place,” and there were a “wide variety of solutions they were using.” But he found that “the two or three top topics for why they were looking elsewhere were largely associated with the ineffectiveness of their solution, poor functionality, and finally the costs.”
Addressing all three of these issues head-on, SpamTitan has been making inroads to the SME space; even for those small and midsize businesses for whom “using managed services are quite popular,” a lot of their service providers are now “using SpamTitan now to offer to their customers.” Added Kavanagh, “SMEs really do rely on companies like our own to come up with patches and solutions as soon as possible after the next spam trick is released.”
A Virtual Solution to a Very Real Problem
As spam volumes continue to rise, Kavanagh explained, SpamTitan’s virtual appliance solution offers scalability well-suited to these perilous times. He identified “a couple of areas pertinent to the e-mail gateways that virtual appliances offer benefits” apart from fighting spam. One of these is volumes: “with virtual appliances, if there is an increase on volumes for mail, instead of removing a tin box and buying a bigger one, you just assign more memory to the virtual appliance and make it bigger with the GUI,” something that can be “done in five minutes at no extra cost.”
This is particularly attractive to larger users, like ISPs and educational institutions, “where a five to ten percent bump in spam can have a significant impact on the resources” spent on IT. Kavanagh observed “within the enterprise, where a lot of the virtualization software is pitched, the benefits really accrue,” and added that “if you are a large organization, the savings is bigger.” Kavanagh added, “In the IT world, if you want to benefit further from those,” SpamTitan is “offering a solution that is purpose-built for that environment, we certainly believe that enterprises are going to be delighted to look at it: they know all about the benefits of virtualization, and they have the expertise to really benefit from virtual appliances.”
For smaller users, virtual appliances offer an additional value proposition: they “bring enterprise class functionality down to the SME sector, and are priced accordingly.” As Kavanagh recalled, “When we launched the SpamTitan product, we were very cognizant of the number of vendors in the space” and realized that the “uniqueness of a virtual appliance and the versatility of a virtual appliance over a physical appliance give a real edge to SpamTitan over other players in the space,” with its “software solution around virtualization instead of a physical hardware appliance,” but “still with the same benefits of a physical appliance.” By offering a virtual appliance, the “overall cost to us as a company were dramatically reduced” and “we were able to put the product on the market for price that was very affordable.”
So Affordable, Thanks to Innovative Appliance-Based Pricing Model
So affordable, in fact, that an up-to-100 user license costs just $500, rising from there: up to 250 users costs $750; up to 500 users, $1,250; up to 750 users, $2,000; up to 1,000 users, $2,500; up to 2,000 users, $3,250; up to 5,000 users, $4,000, and above 5,000 users, the price is subject to a POA.
Kavanagh described this as a “fairly unique licensing model,” noting it was “an appliance based pricing model,” adding that the “product is software-based, coming from a hardware genesis” and that “we’ve stuck with that particular model so rather than a few-user license – for instance, for ten- and twenty-users per increment, “we’ve put very wide bracket out there,” with the “first appliance license good for 100, the next for 250, a very simple system and allows us a lot of flexibility, provides an enterprise-class solution to an area that has been very neglected or priced out of the market previously.”
In SpamTitan’s competitive landscape, where it faces “the normal brands that pop-up in the anti-spam solutions” space, customers are drawn “for different reasons to different companies.” But “when they come across SpamTitan,” Kavanagh explained, they are “coming across the concept of virtual appliances: we introduced this concept.” And “over and above what they’ve been used to dealing with, either dealing with a single point of failure, redundancy issues within their gateway,” customers can find solace “when they see virtual appliances, particularly if familiar with virtualization through VMware appliances.”
As Kavanagh explained, at SpamTitan, “we kind of see it as an evolution – we’ve seen people move from traditional software solutions to appliances for the obvious benefits, primarily around ease of use and deployment. You don’t have to set up servers, operating systems, virtual appliances, this takes it to another level: it’s almost a marrying of the two, the benefits of software, some of which are lost going to appliances, taking the positive of both elements, put together and evolved into virtual appliances.”
Four Key Benefits to Look For When Evaluating Anti-Spam Solutions
Kavanagh described the key benefits of SpamTitan, noting “we categorize it into four key benefits,” including testing, ease of deployments, redundancy, and scalability.
The first of these benefits that’s “immediate obviously to our customers” is their “testing of the product. Rather than physically get a piece of hardware and get it into datacenter to test, they can download it and have it running in half an hour, simple as that.” Plus, “when they’ve done the testing, they can keep it,” and even if their “30-day license for evaluation purposes may have ended, they can keep the data, rather than given back a physical testing box.” While this “may seem like a small point,” Kavanagh stressed that it’s “an extremely important point for a lot of organizations in the testing process.”
When it comes to deployment, “whether local or further geographic locations, because it’s software, it’s an image, it can be stored and backed up and sent to anywhere you want.” For instance, “to deploy to four different boxes in four different countries can be done online – the images can be deployed over the ‘net, configured on a PC locally, and sent off for everyone.” As Kavanagh described the benefits: “It’s huge: we see it online, because we come from a hardware background, we know what’s involved when a customer in the UK or Spain or the States or whatever wants to test our hardware box, we deal with a local distributor or reseller, send them the unit, have to insure it – if we never see the box again, if we get paid for it,” and on top of these worries, there may be “a time lag between the initial conversation and the customer getting the unit, a day or two or a week or two. With a virtual appliance, they come to our website, download, burn it onto a disc, and off they go – as simple as that.”
This ease of deployment is an “edge we will have had,” since “our business model was such that it made the transition into the area of virtual appliances nearly seamless.” Also adding to SpamTitan’s appeal was “getting through the certification process with VMware, the partnership deals with that. We’re on the road, as opposed to still figuring it all out,” while it is “doubtless other people will look at this model, for ourselves, we see ourselves as having a level of expertise at this stage that is putting us in a very good place.”
Among the other “big” benefits of SpamTitan is its redundancy. As Kavanagh explained, “Again the whole idea of failures within a hardware environment – and how you deal with that – the complexity and cost of how you deal with that – physically removing the appliance or replacing it with another, or going to the expense of having a host of high-availability units on standby, with a virtual appliance,” you’re “just baking up the image – image can simply be deployed to another server immediately – that in itself is a fantastic benefit for customers,” as the “downtime associated with that is almost zero.” The advantages for geographic dispersements also hold with redundancy and back-up.” For instance, “if a box breaks in Germany, rather than send a new box, you simple redeploy the image onto another server in Germany.”
Lastly, SpamTitan offers its users the ease of scalability – simply “increase the resource within the virtual server, rather than upgrade the physical appliances.” Kavanagh explained that these benefits are “all interlinked,” and when combined foster an additional benefit: mobility, so “if you are moving offices,” whereas a “physical box, moved from place A to B,” requires much effort, for “virtual appliances, this just doesn’t happen.” This “scalability, mobility, are all quite linked – the whole idea is they can be very, very flexible and malleable and making the IT job a bit easier wherever possible.”
And, explained Kavanagh, it’s SpamTitan’s “flexibility, being probably the top of the list,” that sets it apart.
For more information on SpamTitan, please visit: www.spamtitan.com. According to the company, SpamTitan “provides the most comprehensive solution to email threats on the market today.” Its software “allows you to create an email appliance, real or virtual, for your gateway offering protection from viruses, spam, malware, phishing and unwanted content. The solution uses best of breed technologies to provide an easily installed, easily managed and highly secure solution for your email.” Among the benefits of SpamTitan’s solution are:
- Full Free Product download
- Free 30 day maintenance and support
- 98.5% Spam blocked
- ISO and VMware® options
- Annual Maintenance fees from $150 for 100 users
- Includes two AntiVirus Solutions – Kaspersky and ClamAV
- End User Spam Quarantine and digest
- Up and running in 30 minutes
- Email content controls
- Disclaimers on email
- In and outward bound scanning
- Unlimited domains supported
- Full automated reporting suite