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Getting A Handle On Spam

Spam reduction tips for web hosts

Spam. I canít even mention the word without cringing! For web hosts whose businesses provide resources that can be exploited by spammers, spam presents a never-ending challenge.

Until there are better anti-spam solutions available, web hosts must take proactive steps to stop the abuse and protect their businesses and customers. Here are a few things you can to help reduce spam:

  1. Regular Monitoring

    Unfortunately, there is no effective all-automated anti-spam solution yet, so you should rely on both automated and manual methods. Monitor uploaded files for common spam scripts, server loads, and unusual customer behavior, especially for new customers.

    Registering your email address with sites such as Spamcop.net or Abuse.net could help channel complaints to you and not your uplink. This way you can hopefully eliminate the problem yourself before you get a rude wake up call from your uplink.

    Despite all of your best efforts, there will likely be times youíll be taken for a ride, so draw up an action plan for when that happens. Be firm but rational.

    Remember, your customers may not be savvy about spam, and they could have left their accounts open to someone else to use. There are plenty of possibilities.

    Itís very easy to be angry with suspected spammers, but itís also very difficult to gain good customers and keep them. This brings us to the next point, customer education.

  2. Education

    Education is the key to both your staff and customers. Keep up with the trends and technology that the spammers use. Teach your staff what to look for in your new customers and why you have to do it. Set firm policies concerning the use of company email, such as restricting use for business use only.

    For your customers, create some quality informational pages on your website and publish them in your newsletter providing tips for reducing spam, either by using tools you have available or other methods. Teach them good emailing habits and also what they should do if they're accused of spamming.
  3. Order Screening

    Although this is a low level form of spam prevention, when combined with other methods you can hope to weed out obvious spammers. Check the customer IP addresses and domains against blacklists or do a search in Google or Google Groups.

    If a domain isn't registered, be very cautious. When checking up on customers, remember to ensure that addresses and telephone numbers match also. Find out as much about your customers as possible, and make sure they check out.

    Some customers are pretty touchy when you start asking questions, so itís also good to make known to new sign ups your approval process and why you do it.

    When explained tactfully, most customers will understand and be glad because they donít want to be levied with a spamming charge any more than you do.

    If you currently offer instant account activation, you may wish to review how effective it is for your business. Spammers love this feature because they can quickly set up an account, send thousands of spam emails, and be on their way again.

    By the time you find out, the damage has already been done. By all means have a quick and easy account activation procedure, but set up a manual approval step.

  4. Technical Set Up

    Always have SMTP authentication turned on, and make sure your servers aren't used as open relays. If you provide form mail scripts for customer use, make sure you're using a secure one. Certain scripts are easy for spammers to exploit.

    Again, educate your customers. If they donít use a script that you have provided, let them know what to look for in a good form mail script.

  5. Policies

    Set up clear acceptable use policies (AUP) and enforce them. Many web hosts provide stiff penalties for spamming. This policy is often debated because spammers obviously pay little attention to the law and one would hardly be able to collect the fees since many spammers are located in other countries.

    On the other hand, having stiff penalties for spamming could stop your customers from developing spamming habits. It also forces your responsible customers to carefully review their communications before sending out an email.

    Web hosting is a business with a bottom line to watch. The measures mentioned above are blanket steps that may not work for all customers.

    You'll have customers you trust with large legitimate mailing lists. Depending on how much you value that customer's business, it may be worthwhile to work with them so you know what is going on. You can modify your AUP for that particular customer if you believe it to be in your best interest, so just use your discretion.

Article courtesy of HostVoice.net, a free online service that brings hosting companies and consumers together. Visit them and request a free quote. You'll receive offers from qualifying hosts within 15 minutes!

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