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The vPostMaster Story

We have noticed that it's become less and less likely that e-mail sent to other companies will result in a response. As we were drowning in spam, we wondered if there was a correlation. Our primary inquiry mailbox had over 700 messages per day in it's quarantine folder, making it impossible to watch for legitimate messages. Around 30 to 200 spams would make it past our filters into the main mailbox, and it was just getting worse.

vPostMaster is based on the systems we set up to "take back our mailboxes", and our decade worth of experience managing e-mail servers for our clients. The result for us was that we completely got rid of the Quarantine folder, and now only get 2 to 6 spams making it through to our main mailboxes. Quite an improvement from the nearly 1,000 messages we had to wade through before. That's not counting the thousands more that were blocked by SpamAssassin and other tools.

Using these techniques we've been able to become responsive to our clients again. No longer are new inquiries getting lost in a hurricane of junk mail. We can spend more time getting new clients and keeping existing clients, and less time processing hundreds or thousands of messages.

We've had our e-mail addresses at tummy.com for over 10 years. This means that spammers have had a long time to learn our email addresses, so we get a lot of spam every day, tens of thousands of message delivery attempts.

There are lot of different tools for defeating spam and viruses. We've used many of them, with varying degrees of success. Over the last year we've spent weeks or months of time setting up various mail server software and tools in an attempt to get our mail boxes back.

As the anti-spam tools become more effective, the spammers change their techniques. It's an arms race. Any anti-spam system needs to have regular development performed on it to ensure that it continues to remain relevant as the spammers change techniques.

Some of the tools for filtering are very effective, but take a lot of computer horsepower to work well. SpamAssassin, for example, is very good at classifying spam and non-spam messages, but can take several seconds per message. We found that, even after upgrading our mail server to a 2.8GHz P4 system, it couldn't keep up with the rate of incoming messages, and all of our e-mail would get delayed by an hour or more.

Remember, this is for a company of 5 people. We had a 2.8GHz system that couldn't handle the mail volume of 5 users. We were spending hours every week just with dealing with an overburdened mail server, not to mention all the staff time dealing with the messages that got through.

SpamAssassin was classifying over hundreds of messages a day into our quarantine mailbox (the "I'm not sure if this is spam or not, so I'd like a human to look at it box"). And it was letting over 200 spam messages a day get through to my main mailbox, where I had to look at and delete them.

This was deeply annoying.

I was never sure if I was only deleting spam, because the emails often looked pretty close to a legitimate email. That's why SpamAssasin let them through to my main mailbox. This frustrated me, because I didn't want to lose any legitimate mail.

The quarantine mailbox was even worse, where I was literally hunting for the one or two real emails out of hundreds more spams that I needed to find. I'm a fast reader, but this was an impossible task.

So, we decided we couldn't tolerate this any more, and decided to try an outsourced spam provider.

This helped somewhat, initially reducing our spam by maybe 2 to 3 times fewer. However, over the period of a month we found that it had grown back up to the point we had started at. Over the next month, our mail administrator spent 30 to 60 minutes a day fine-tuning the e-mail rules and we were able to push the spam back down again, at a cost of around $500 in staff time per month.

We need reliable email. Some companies are phone companies, we're an email company. I send and receive hundreds of legitimate emails every day, and if it's not working, I can't work.

Sean did a bit of research, and decided it was time to try out Greylisting and SPF (Spender Policy Framework).

Greylisting works because spammers are cheap, volume senders.

It's like the spammers have hired an army of people to ring on doorbells in neighborhoods all over the world. The people aren't paid for the people they talk to, only for the doorbells they ring. So they ring once, and if there isn't anyone home, they go to the next door. They don't come back, even if there is a sign on the door saying "Back in an hour".

Legitimate mail servers will see this "be back in 60 minutes" and will try sending the message again later. Greylisting also self-tunes, so it only blocks the e-mail of people you don't normally correspond with. Regular correspondents get let in right away, while strangers are turned away for a short period of time.

That, combined with a few other techniques, has given me back my mailbox. It's been a miracle.

Now, I get less than 5 spam a day into my mailbox.

That's right. It's gone from over 200 spam to wade through, to under 5. I now don't have have a quarantine folder to wade through either, which eliminated another 700 messages per day.

I've saved over an hour every day managing the mail for our 5 person company. I no longer cringe when I run my mail reader. Life is peaceful.

Wouldn't you like to get your life back? vPostMaster is the easiest way to install this system for your company or organization.

Update 2014-08: The spam envionment has continud to progress, and the solutions used by vPostMaster (whitelisting, blacklisting, but especially greylisting) are not as effective as they once were. As more people use social networking sites, and gmail for their email, they expect a cleaner mailbox, and a seamless messaging expereince.

It is due to this change, that we are stopping development on vPostMaster. As it is a Postfix mail server, you will continue to use it as a mail server.

Thank you for your ongoing support.