Servcorp introduces a new standard of proof for spam

Received 25,000 e-mail messages per day

Servcorp engineering and IT services manager, Brett Olsen, estimates the company's e-mail volumes has inceased tenfold in the last four years.

But the ASX-listed provider of serviced and virtual offices was still using a messaging solution it had deployed in 2004.

Olsen said the system was struggling to manage 60 gigabytes of e-mail traffic per month.

He said around 25,000 e-mail messages passed through Servcorp's head office data centre in Sydney every day supporting its operations in Australia, Asia and Europe.

The increased volume was accompanied by masses of spam penetrating the system while business-related mail was being blocked.

"It was affecting staff productivity, especially IT staff spending because they were spending hours every week on administrative tasks; it was a complex system to maintain," Olsen explained.

"Requests to search and retrieve missing e-mails ate into valuable staff time. Even worse, the system had become unreliable and failed every second week."

Since it was established in 1978, Servcorp has grown rapidly. As a result Olsen was keen to get IT staff working on infrastructure growth and internal IT projects, not wasting time chasing e-mails.

"We needed a system that could grow with the company regardless of size or number of geographies covered," he said adding that his preference was for an appliance-based solution with little maintenance.

A number of competing solutions were evaluated before Servcorp selected Proofpoint's secure messaging system.

It provides protection against image-based spam, zero-hour virus threats and filters are updated automatically.

This is in addition to anti-phishing features to prevent identity theft and an integrated e-mail firewall.

Olsen said when the new solution was installed in audit mode next to the previous system, it found 71 per cent of e-mails received by Servcorp were spam. The old solution only identified 10 per cent of the total e-mail volume as spam with 86 per cent of spam getting through.

"Our e-mail volumes have dropped dramatically and false positives are no longer a problem," he added.

Olsen describes it as a true 'set and forget' solution because maintenance has dropped from around four hours per week to a couple of minutes.

With Servcorp building more e-mail infrastructure across the globe, he said ease of maintenance is crucial.

"When we have four or five continents running the system, the ease of maintenance will really come into play. Maintenance won't increase as the solution expands out, that's a big time saving," Olsen explained.

Servcorp also has plans to use the compliance and data loss capabilities in future.

In addition to secure inbound and outbound messaging, its content filtering enforces the company's business rules and support regulatory compliance while conforming to common standards to protect sensitive information from leaving the network.

"We are a public company so there are trade secrets and market sensitive information that cannot leave the organisation," Olsen said.

Servcorp also prefers the per-user based pricing as it is more cost effective for multi-site deployment.

"E-mail is managed centrally from a single location but we are looking to create separate regions for Asia, Europe and Japan," Olsen said.

"We can distribute the physical devices but still manage it all from our Sydney data centre.

"We are also in the process of consolidating servers and we can combine virtual and hardware appliances in a single architecture giving us more flexibility and disaster recovery capabilities across the globe."

Spam volumes continue to rise dramatically.

Servcorp's experience certainly isn't an isolated one with anti-virus firms and IT security vendors reporting that spam has continued to increase, particularly in the last two years.

For example, 10 years ago spam accounted for 30 per cent of e-mail but today that figure is as high as 80 per cent, according to SurfControl.

It is a massive increase which has led to more organisations outsourcing e-mail security enabling IT staff to focus on other priorities.

A new report by analyst firm Frost and Sullivan claims the Australian market for managed security services will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.6 per cent between 2006 and 2012 reaching $843.1 million.

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