An Often-Overlooked Way to Decrease Spam Control TCO

One of the major components of the spam control total cost of ownership (TCO) equation is the human effort required to answer end-user questions -- the help desk cost. See our report, The Cost of Spam, for more detail. A major part of the help desk worker's day is answering questions about false positives and the quarantine. Users ask where missing legitimate messages might have gone, and they're told to look in the "spam folder."

Later, as the novelty wears off a spam control installation, help desk questions tend to change from "Where is my mail?" to "Why is my mail not in my inbox?" With many spam control products today, this second question is a tough one to answer in any detail. But it's a very good question -- if they knew why, users could give feedback to their correspondents to, say, stop using so many capital letters, or to send mail from their organization's mail server (not their ISP's).

If help desk personnel were able to quickly answer the "why" -- or even help users find out for themselves -- organizations could see a significant reduction in TCO.

The open source spam control server, SpamAssassin, will typically add several lines of "why" information to the headers of a quarantined email message. Some, but not all, commercial solutions built on SpamAssassin retain this functionality. Surprisingly few other products or services do. 

... Richi Jennings, with thanks to Eytan Urbas of MailShell

One Comment

  1. Posted March 2, 2006 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

    I would say the justification for keeping filtering black-box is to avoid giving feedback to spammers on how to get around anti-spam techniques.

    An alternative to transparent filtering would be to improved end-user spam management tools with the ability to whitelist.

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