by December 4, 2001 0 comments

To think that just a few years ago, we relied on faxes and normal telephones for communication. Today, of course, e-mail has become one of the most important communication mediums, so much so that life without e-mail seems unimaginable. Here, we will not get into the details of obtaining and setting up e-mail, as most organizations with a network setup would already have it. Instead, we’ll talk about the issues most organizations face with their e-mail setups–the growing threat of virus spread by e-mail, spam mail, employee productivity loss, to name a few.

Beyond e-mail

Besides e-mail, another mode of communication, IMs (instant messengers), has caught up. There are both public domain and corporate-level IMs that can be used within an organization. The advantage here is that they let you use your existing Internet connectivity for instant communication with anyone anywhere. If you have offices in multiple locations, even abroad, IMs can help cut down on long-distance costs. However, managing such a setup deserves a story in itself, which can’t be covered in this much space. One issue with IMs is losing employee productivity as they could spend more time chatting with friends than their work. Another is bandwidth consumption by IMs. While it cuts down on STD costs, your Internet connectivity costs may go up.

Virus attacks over e-mail have become quite common. Nimda, SirCam, the love bug, are just a few names that have caused widespread havoc. Someone in your company receives an e-mail with an attachment. The moment this is opened, the virus plants itself in the system, and starts sending copies of itself to everyone in the client’s e-mail address book. Therefore, organizations have to update their anti-virus strategies to include their e-mail servers as well. Most corporate anti-virus products today have components for e-mail gateways. More important than this is to keep the anti-virus updated. While this will take care of existing viruses for which vaccines have been developed, they may not be able to handle the new viruses. After all, it’s the virus that gets developed first, then the vaccine. Therefore, the only way to safeguard against these is to educate your users. After all, prevention is better than cure. Most viruses and trojans come with attachments having extensions like exe, vbs, hqx and hta. So ask your employees not to open any suspicious e-mail from unknown sources.

The other common threat facing most organizations is spam mail. I’m sure that almost everyone with an e-mail ID receives at least a few mail on reducing weight, low mortgage rates, and pornography. These cause loss of productivity as the employees have to spend time downloading the mail, and then deleting them. Not only that, but unnecessary e-mail also hog up precious bandwidth, causing loss of employee productivity. While most ISPs today are taking some stringent measures to control spam, such as blocking off relay of all foreign mail, it’s still not enough. So you must take some preventive measures to control it. For one, try to block any spam and addresses at the server. You could do this by setting up e-mail filters at the mail server itself.

Another solution is to use a content-management software that blocks off all incoming mail containing objectionable or undesirable content. Finally, take steps at the client end. Besides mail filters, there are programs that only download e-mail headers, subject, etc. This will allow you to delete unwanted mail before downloading it, thereby saving Internet bandwidth.

Anil Chopra

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