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Small firms lining up to can spam

Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo this week pledged to help can spam, but they're hardly the only firms thinking outside the inbox. Smaller firms, like Ipswitch Inc., are rolling out meaty products that can spear spam without bleeding your budget.

Fighting dreaded spam seems to be a priority with messaging vendors this year, and an upcoming version of messaging...

software from Ipswitch Inc. proves to be no exception.

The company, which makes Windows-based messaging software for small and midsized enterprises, will release IMail Server 8.0, next week. It features statistical filtering to weed out spam, real-time black hole lists, white lists, connection filtering and customizable in and outbound rules. There is also a queue manager, which temporarily skips failed domains if the first of many messages to that domain fails to connect.

The software includes support for French, Dutch, English, Japanese, German and Korean languages, and the new pricing structure means that customers get a free version for no more than 10 users, company executives said. Chinese and Spanish versions are forthcoming.

There is also a full Web mail interface. This version of the software does not support MAPI, the calendaring and file-sharing standard, because the company thought it was more important for this release to place a higher priority on fighting spam, said John Korsak, product marketing manager at Ipswitch, which is based in Lexington, Mass.

Indeed, public scorn for spam is growing. The commonwealth of Virginia this week enacted a law that imposes harsh penalties for those who send unsolicited e-mail, or spam. The law imposes criminal penalties for high-volume spammers.

At least one Ipswitch customer who learned about the release welcomed the anti-spam features, because he finds the whole business of self-regulation to be far too time consuming.

"We've tried to do our own spam regulation, and we were playing with the idea of getting a third-party application," said Dan Swihart, a system administrator at Emergency 24, a Chicago-based national alarm monitoring company. "[With better anti-spam] features, we may not need a third party."

Ipswitch falls within the tier of messaging platforms just behind market leaders IBM Corp., with its Lotus Software unit, and Microsoft Corp. Analysts said there are still tens of millions of users in that third tier of companies, many of which provide good messaging software for a lot less money than IBM Lotus' Notes/Domino or Microsoft's Exchange.

"With Ipswitch, you are looking at pricing of about $2.70 per user for 1,000 users," said Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research, a Black Diamond, Wash., consulting company. "For Microsoft and Lotus, it's probably a ten-fold difference."

Though Ipswitch is typically found in small and midsized enterprises, anti-spam features are essential for all companies.

"For enterprises, educational institutions and government, spam is a cost and liability," said Dana Gardner, an analyst at the Yankee Group, a Boston market research firm. "There have always been third parties to help, but more and more providers of e-mail are putting in their own solutions."


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