September, 2009

Sep 09

10 Common Mistakes Made by Spam Filtering Companies

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Some have said that we’ll never win the fight against spam.  And they probably never will.  But SpamHero is unique, even revolutionary.  We designed it from the ground up to resolve the problems that plague other spam filtering services.  Here are the top 10 problems we saw with the other companies in this industry:

Mistake #1: Make bogus claims about how accurate their filter is.

We tested high and low.  Most of the filters we tested only caught between 50% – 75% of the spam (even the ones that claimed to catch 99% or more).  SpamHero consistently catches over 98.5% of the bad stuff.  The details on how we accomplish this is worthy of it’s own blog entry so I’ll have to get back to that soon.

Mistake #2: Throw away a lot of your good mail as “spam”.

Even companies that claim to specialize in this area seem to fail miserably–ouch.  It’s probably because they take the same out-dated approach to filtering.  We do things differently.

This topic also deserves it’s own entry so instead of getting into the technical side of it I’ll just ask: Have you ever seen someone win the lottery?  Probably not.  And you’re even less likely to see SpamHero trash a good message.  While scanning over a half billion messages per day, our filtering engine averages less than 10 false positives.  That’s less than 1 in 10 million.  Not bad.  For the average email user that’s less than 1 good message being lost in 100 years.

Mistake #3: Makes you look like a spammer to the rest of the world.

To keep things simple most spam filters will accept email that is sent to any address at your domain.  Unfortunately, spammers like to impersonate domains that have this feature enabled.  As a result, millions of people around the world could be receiving spam that has your domain listed as the sender’s email address.  That certainly can’t be good for your image.

Of course, we love the idea of keeping things simple.  So we designed a smarter solution that gives you the best of both worlds.  By default we leave the email ‘catch-all’ feature turned on for the first 30 days (you can force it to stay on if you prefer).  During that time our system automatically learns what email addresses are valid for your domain.  The catch-all feature is automatically shut off after 30 days and we only accept mail for your valid email addresses from then on.

Mistake #4: Make your domain a bigger target for spammers.

Recently a customer that was moving to SpamHero from another filtering service forwarded a message from the other company.  They were trying to win back their customer by pointing out that their domain had received over 600,000 spam messages so far that month.

Since we were already filtering mail for this new customer I decided to investigate.  It turned out that in less than 24 hours spammers had sent mail to over 1,000 unique email addresses on this customer’s domain (the customer had less than a dozen “valid” email addresses).

This is something spammers like to do to domains that have the ‘catch-all’ feature turned on.  Fortunately, our service automatically detects the valid email addresses and shuts off this dangerous feature.  So I calculated that this customer would cut down their inbound email volume from over 600,000 messages per month to around 5,000 messages per month–just by switching to our service.

On a side note, these kinds of practices can falsely inflate a spam filter’s accuracy
rating.  I won’t go into the logic of how this works but I’ll offer a hint: it has to do with spammers sending 99% of the spam to invalid addresses on your domain.

Mistake #5: “Tuning, tweaking and training, oh my!”

Unless you’re an IT expert then the idea of tuning your spam filter probably sounds daunting (and with good reason).  Some services ask you to train their filter so they know what “your” spam looks like.  That’s rubbish.

We wouldn’t stand for such non-sense.  SpamHero goes undercover to spy on what the spammers are up to.  Our distributed network of spam traps instantly detects and adapts to the latest spam storms.  No tuning, training or tweaking required.

Mistake #6: Charge setup fees and per email box fees.

With the level of automation that exists today there is really no excuse for a “setup fee”.  Oh yeah, and if you have more than a few email addresses on your domain they want you to pay extra for that too.

That’s all old-school thinking.  We’d rather focus on giving our customer as much value for their dollar as possible.

Mistake #7: Charge an extra fee to view the spam that’s been filtered.

Yes, most companies charge an extra fee for the “message quarantine” feature.   Perhaps they’re concerned that if you could see what they’ve marked as “spam” you might notice how much of your good mail they’re actually throwing away.

We’ve got nothing to hide.  People will generally see Halley’s Comet more often than a good message being caught in their SpamHero quarantine.

Mistake #8: Require you to call or fill out a form to get a price.

This one doesn’t affect long-term service but it always makes me wonder what  they trying to hide.  It’s amazing to me how many companies still take this old-fashioned approach.

People don’t like being left in the dark.  So we’ve tried to make SpamHero as transparent as possible.  It just makes more sense.

Mistake #9: Sign up today, they’ll get back to you some time… next week?

A lot of spam filtering services take several days to get setup from the day you fill out their order form.  Is that due to poor design or laziness?  Not sure but we feel that’s totally unacceptable.

We had 3 design goals when we created our order & setup process:
1) Must be simple to get started (intuitive order process, etc)
2) Services must activate immediately upon ordering
2) Entire process should take 5 minutes or less

Mistake #10: Innovation not included.

Before we began creating our service we did a lot of research.  One thing we noticed among many of the older spam filtering companies is that their website (or control panel) looked like it was created in the 90’s (and never updated since).  And this is something we’ve encountered in most industries.  It seems that once a company reaches a certain point they get comfortable and stop innovating.

We’ve got a huge list of features we plan to implement.  Check back often and watch us as we show what we’re made of.  🙂

Sep 09

Launch Day!

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Here we go!   Today we celebrate the official launch of our service.  We’ve had an extra long beta test and have had lots of positive feedback from our beta testers.  It’s time to unleash SpamHero on the world.

To kick things off, we’re offering new customers that sign up in our first month (between now and October 15) an entire year of free service.   We even put a out a cheesy press release about it.

Our hope is that by offering our service for free, that we’ll be able to employ the power of word-of-mouth advertising.  We’ve seen the technique work for other successful start-ups, and so we figure we might as well give it a go.  Besides, the only time you can make “crazy” offers like this is in the beginning.  I suppose you could try it after having your doors open for a while, but it seems to me that you might upset some of your loyal paying customers a bit (unless you offer them some free time too).

Sep 09

SpamHero Offers Free Spam Filtering For A Year

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Internet domain owners get extended ‘test drive’ on new service

Henderson, Nevada – Sept. 15, 2009 – Curtis and Jeremy O’Reilly, brothers and long-time veterans in the web-hosting sector, are celebrating the release of SpamHero, a “hosted spam filter” for domain owners, by giving away a free year of service to all customers who sign up by Oct. 15.

SpamHero boasts enterprise level features, including a powerful interface for viewing “quarantined” spam, and superior spam filtering over traditional anti-spam solutions.  Even at the regular price of just $4.95 per month for domain-wide spam filtering, with no limit on the number of email accounts, the service is a fraction of what other solutions cost.

“At first, we were a little concerned some people might be scared off by the low cost,” said Jeremy O’Reilly, “but with SpamHero’s no-risk free year of service, we’re giving customers plenty of time to see how effective and accurate our filter really is.”

According to a recent report by Microsoft, spam now accounts for more than 97% of email that is sent. Another report on iTWire said spam volume records set last summer were broken again in 2009.

“Combine these factors with the ever-increasing need for businesses to cut costs and boost productivity, the timing of SpamHero’s arrival on the scene couldn’t be better,” Curtis O’Reilly noted.

But what makes SpamHero different is not just the low cost.  SpamHero is powered by a “team of human spam-fighting technicians who are updating the filter rules several times a day.  Over 2 million rules have been compiled so far,” Curtis O’Reilly explained.   “This also ensures that real email does not get blocked by ‘robotic’ algorithms that can sometimes mistake real email for spam.”

Jeremy O’Reilly added: “And, since SpamHero is a hosted solution, it requires no new hardware or software installed at a client’s location.”

Upon subscribing, SpamHero customers update their domain’s “MX record,” which then re-routes all email for the domain through SpamHero’s servers where it is cleaned of spam before arriving at the customer’s mail server.

“The change is so simple to implement and email is free from 99% of spam within 5 minutes,” said Curtis O’Reilly.

“Spammers continue to find innovative ways to get around traditional anti-spam techniques.  If your business isn’t protected by a filtering solution that is actively monitored and improved, prepare to be buried in spam,” Curtis O’Reilly warned.

Curtis and Jeremy O’Reilly decided to develop SpamHero after 13 years in the web hosting industry and witnessing first hand the frustrations that business owners have over the cost of fighting spam, and the lackluster performance of existing solutions.


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