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The Perfect Email Solution
Owning a Translation Agency, I tend to advertise a lot on the net looking for more translators and customers, so I tend to get a lot of spam. So much so that I was spending at least half an hour a day filtering out spam, even after a paid filtering service removed about 4,000 of them a month! And this was increasing rapidly every month. Not to mention the risk that I was erasing valid emails, which could have become important clients, only to lose them just because the translator or potential customer did not bother putting text in the subject. Or a long lost friend who did the same.
Also, considering the mobility of my work, where I like to check a lot of my emails from the convenience of my pocket pc, I finally worked out what I like to consider the perfect email solution, and which I would like to extend to you.
First of all, if you get a lot of spam like me, it's not a bad idea to get some sort of filtering service. The danger in that though is that some friends might inadvertently end up on some spam list, so you would not get their emails. So if you do not get a ridiculous amount of spam like me, I would skip this option and go straight to the perfect email solution.
|Your first line defense is an excellent program called Choicemail. They have a sufficiently
functioning free version, and the way it works is that people who write to you who are not
on your whitelist (list of email addresses you have approved that can get to you), they
are automatically sent an email informing them that you are not aware of their email
address and if they want to be added to your whitelist they must follow the provided
weblink to go to a website and punch in the numbers they see to basically prove they are a
human and willing enough to get on your whitelist. It's not a painful procedure at all.
And if you are afraid this would be too complicated for them, you can always check your Choicemail inbox and scan through all the incoming emails to
see if you recognise anything. You might argue that you are still spending time filtering
out spam, but it is better because it does not pollute your regular email and potentially
confuse you; you are scanning all the spam at once, so you are aware that it is probably
spam and hence you scan a lot faster; you are doing the scanning when YOU want to and
hence are not constantly distracted by incoming spam when you are trying to work; and the
program marks the spam differently, whether it was addressed only to you or whether it was
a BCC (blind carbon copy). Meaning it was sent to a bunch of people at once, with all
their email addresses hidden, so you can scan and ignore those faster, focusing a little
more on those emails which were addressed to you only. And you can also set the program to
automatically ignore/delete emails which were presumably sent from yourself, a lot of the
spam nowadays. So you can actually scan through as much as a thousand spam emails in less
than half an hour.
Choicemail may be a little tricky to set up, and after a year of problem free operation, something happened in my Windows and I could not resolve it, so I had to look for another solution. For this I found ASK < (Active Spam Killer), which is free software but only works on UNIX or Linux. This system is good because it only requires the recipient of the challenge message to press Reply, and not to follow some weblink to punch in some numbers online, as explained in the paragraph above. Many people simply do not bother with this procedure, so you could be losing legitimate emails.
Since I do not work on these two operating systems, I was forced to hunt further, and eventually found Vanquish. This system is fairly easy to set up, but costs 34$ a year (although you can test it out for free for fourteen days). You set up an email account with them, which has 200MB of memory, and to which you either forward your regular email, or ask Vanquish to POP3 download your regular email. It works on the same principle as Choicemail above, but also uses the usual filter techniques and works on their own server. You then download your email from their server. You can log into your email account with them much like a normal web based email account (like Hotmail), but you can also check the "held" mail (those incoming emails not on your whitelist and who have been sent a challenge email). One good feature this system offers is "smart subject", where emails with a defined subject can automatically be accepted on a permanent or time-defined basis, which is good if you occasionally advertise about translation projects like I do. Their tech support is great, as shown in this Vanquish ticket response example.
Another good thing about Vanquish is you can set up temporary "disposable" emails, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. These days one can buy domains rather cheaply. I bought kenax.cz for my business, and I can put anything before @kenax.cz and all mail will get to me. I then forward all of it to Vanquish. By putting email@example.com in the special Allow List area, any email sent to this special email address will automatically get through without being sent a challenge message. If this special email address finds its way on a spam list and starts getting bombarded by spam, I simply remove it from my Allow List area, after which it is subjected to the same filtering as other mail. This is useful when advertising for something, or when approaching many companies. Once a customer writes to this email address and you respond to them, by responding to them you automatically put their email address on your whitelist, so even if you remove the disposable email from your Allow List or the customer starts writing to your regular email address, their mail will always get through without being subject to a challenge message. This is ideal because so many people do not bother when challenged, or are too "challenged" to be challenged, so you do not lose potential customers or contacts this way.
Both of the above options offer Domain listing. For example, let us say you have an important customer IBM. But one day the person who sends you work writes from firstname.lastname@example.org, and the next day someone from accounting writes you an email concerning payment, from email@example.com. You can just put @ibm.com on your Approved Domain List and anything before @ibm.com will get to you.
The above systems offer other neat little tricks
and services, so all in all, this is an excellent and necessary first stage filter if you
are being bombarded by lots of spam.
However, over time, I discovered there could be other problems with it, explained below, where you will also find links to other such services and programs.
After this stage, you have essentially knocked
out all spam. Very rarely do I get a real human who would go through all the trouble to
get their spam to me. If they do, I can just knock them onto my blacklist and that's the
last time I've heard from them!
Once you have your approved emails, so that you can focus on them and not be constantly distracted during your important work, you can begin downloading some real email. The systems above can be set up with various email clients/programs, like Outlook. I personally do not like Outlook because it is a resource hog, opens up slow, is prone to getting viruses (although some remedies may exist for this < ), and it doesn't have the functionality I prefer to have and available in my email client (below).
|But before I get to my preferred email program, I still have a stage TWO! This is because I like to check my email on my pocketpc when I am not in the office. For this I use Desknow. It can also be free, but you have to get the paid version if you want to use the pocketpc feature (although it has a one month free period to test out this feature). Essentially it is an email server and functions like Hotmail (although with Desknow you'd have to have it running on a computer connected to the internet with a fixed IP address), where with the paid version you can set up several accounts for your friends or co-workers. It has many features and even its own spam filtering system, but I turn all that off, since I have already taken care of that problem and don't want emails from people on my whitelist considered as spam by the program, which can happen. You will find instructions how to turn off the filter feature and how to set up the programs below < .|
Here are the basic points about Desknow:
should be running on a computer (can be a normal desktop computer) connected to the internet with a fixed IP address (not much more expensive than a regular permanent internet connection). That way, you can set up something like http://desknow.kenax.cz, easy to remember and which you use to check your email when not in the office;
works on Java script, so can be accessed from any operating system, such as MAC or Linux etc.
has a good and quick interface for logging in with your pocketpc, so you save money, and it is not slow and cumbersome like Vanquish, your own ISP, or something like Hotmail;
when reading your email, you are not downloading any attached files to your pocketpc;
you can save or attach files to your server (where Desknow is installed), or to your pocketpc or remote computer if you want to;
you can easily forward attached files without having to download them to your pocketpc or remote computer;
you can even manipulate with files, using it as a browser based FTP server. There is a calendar, message board for other users, and other goodies;
you can set up as many accounts as you want (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org), each assigned to different groups with differently assigned user rights. Each email address would have its own password and would function like its own Hotmail account;
and quite a nifty thing is that you
can use it as an smtp server too. Each account that you set up as explained in the point
above would have its own smtp. Meaning you can take your laptop to any internet cafe and
send all your offline written email directly from your computer and through Desknow
without going to the girl at the counter to ask her what the internet cafe's smtp settings
are. Trust me, they all stare at your blankly, and if they happen to know, they usually
decline to tell you. So you can travel with your laptop or pocketpc, hook up to the
internet in various ways, and work almost as seamlessly as if you were back in the office.
However, I prefer to use the smtp server provided by Vanquish above. This is because the Desknow runs on my own server and I find that my emails sent through its smtp can often end up in people's spambox or junkmail. Vanquish is a paid service which uses a secure system of sending out your email, and therefore can better guarantee its delivery. For more information check out my Internet Connection While Traveling pages;
but with every wonderful and perfect
system, some flaws may be found, and Desknow is not able to upload
or attach files from your PPC. I've emailed with the developers and they said it is
because Windows CE has not provided support for this feature, and Desknow got tired of
making a separate fix with every new upgrade of Windows CE. To work around this problem,
simply use Windows CE's regular email program (Messaging > POP3 you need to set up an
Account, and you can still use any of the smtp servers mentioned in the paragraph above).
This is an issue of Bill Gates being a monopolistic control freak and not a flaw in my
wonderful and perfect email solution. :0)
Alternatively, you can use your ppc as a modem to get internet access directly to your laptop, in which case you can use the full pc version of Desknow and upload or attach your files that way.
|So after I've checked my email in Desknow while out of the office and I am ready to download everything once at a fast internet connection (or once I am back at the running computer, since all three stages can be on the same computer), I like to download my emails to Pegasus (free as well here you can find Pegasus Help instructions). The Desknow program has its own POP3 service, so you simply download your email from that server like you would any other, erasing them from that account and downloading them to your email program of choice. Desknow or Vanquish/Choicemail can download from any number of external accounts, and then you download to end email client from there.|
The reason why I like Pegasus is because it's
fast and light, and essentially virus proof, if you know some basics about emailing that
is. Like to never double click on an attached file with endings .exe, .com, .bat and the
of unsafe file extensions). Even if you get such attachments from your friends,
because your friends might be using Outlook and sending these viruses to everyone on their
contact list, which Outlook so generously allows. But this Pegasus will never open an
attachment for you automatically, even if you double click on an email itself and read the
email. Neither will it automatically show .gif images, which can also contain viruses. The
program is geared greatly against such vulnerabilities and the only time I caught a virus
over eight years of constant emailing was when I received a self executing .zip file from
a translation agency. They usually sent me .exe files as translations, and one day caught
a virus, and I as well, because I double clicked on the .exe file they sent me, thinking
it was a translation. So that was the last time I accepted such work.
Another good thing about Pegasus is its programmability, meaning I can write scripts which can create template responses, such as Dear <sender>, followed by some text, perhaps their original email, with an attachment. Something I need for my business considering I spend so much time processing emails.
Whatever email client you prefer to use, whether it is Outlook, Pegasus or Bat, simply POP3 download your email like from any other service.
All in all, no spam, the ability to check your email on a ppc while manipulating with attached files at basically zero cost, and an email client at the end which can process the rest automatically! The perfect email solution.
The above is for receiving emails, and sending
out individual emails. If you would like to know a good way how to send out many emails,
check out our mass
emails to multiple recipients page.
If you would like to purchase our email form for 20$, which automatically prevents spamming or hacking by spammers, please contact us directly.
At one point I wasn't happy with Vanquish's service above (did I mention the word "perfect" somewhere?), because it seemed that not all my emails were getting delivered, I was not reliably receiving emails from certain people, and Vanquish's support staff was not responding, so I spent two days looking for an alternative service. Unfortunately I could not find a better one I would be happy with but I did find a lot of services, and some interesting information. Below you will find links to services I tested out myself and some of my comments. But first...
In any offline email client, such as Microsoft Outlook, you set up your own identity. For example, mine is "KENAX - Karel Kosman". You also set up your email address and Reply To email address. Therefore anyone out there can masquerade themselves as your own identity. You might have already received emails "from yourself", appearing as if you had sent it.
One of the greatest ways that this happens is when people forward retarded messages like "Microsoft and AOL have teamed up against Yahoo to provide a full service. As part of its promotion they will pay you 3 dollars for every person you forward this promotional email to, and 1 dollar for every person they subsequently forward this message to. It's unbelievable but I have a friend who has already made 250$!!". Or, "Poor little 13 year old Tina is lying on her deathbed with one arm and no liver, but you can save her life by forwarding this email to every one of your friends, because the American Cancer Society will donate for her cause 3 cents for every such forwarded email." Wake up people, there is no way that these companies can tell how many people you forward such mail to and it is only a crock of hogwash invented by spammers in the hopes of getting a list of all your friend's emails. And how is this possible? Because most people just press Forward, Select All Addresses, and blast off, meaning that everyone's email addresses and identities are visible in the forwarding email. Same with those supposed petitions. "Forward and sign this email to all your friends, and once it reaches a million, we will print it out and submit it to Congress, and as such hopefully stop the fighting in Darfur." Legitimate such petitions are usually online and you should be wary of all such statements. If any of your friends forward you such nonsense, you should forward back to them this explanation and tell them to forward that to their friends, so that we can educate the internet community in this way. Because this is one of the main ways that all our emails end up on spammer lists, which get sold to spammers. It is a very large industry. By forwarding such nonsense you will expose the email addresses and identities of all your friends. Not smart my friend.
The way that email providers have begun to circumnavigate this mess is by bonding emails, or digital signatures. When they receive an email from the identity "KENAX - Karel Kosman" and the email address kenax [AT] kenax.cz, they can check the smtp server if it is digitally signed and prove whether it was actually me who sent that email and not someone else in my name. If it is not digitally signed, a red flag goes up and that email might be marked as spam, not making it past their filter. My domain has already been hijacked by spammers and my address probably added to many spam filters, hence I am having problems whereby some people are not getting my emails. (Did I say perfect solution?)
Now the problem with the challenge/response approach is that, because a majority of spam mail is sent under a false identity (in someone else's name and email address), such automatic challenge responses sent to the Reply To address can bombard those poor people with something that may appear to them as spam. I used to use a catchall address, meaning that email@example.com would be forwarded to my main email address, where anything.before can truly be anything (such as firstname.lastname@example.org). Last I checked I was getting about one thousand spam messages a day, thankfully diverted into quarantine through the challenge/response system explained at the top of this page, but which meant that I was sending out a thousand emails a day, mostly to people who did not even send the original email. So I was technically becoming a spammer myself!! And the annoyed recipients of these unwanted challenge/response requests might have put in a request to such services as spamcop to add my email address to their list of spammers, which could be why some people would not receive my emails (I am forced to approach such services to remove my email address from their blacklist).
The ideal solution, as explained by boxsentry below, is to use the challenge/response method in combination with a filter. Vanquish also offers this to a certain degree. If I get a thousand spam emails a day, an intelligent filter could knock out perhaps 800 of them and throw them into the junk box. The remaining 200 could be diverted to the quarantine box and automatically sent a challenge message. All emails on your whitelist would blast through straight to you automatically. This can also be combined with the digital signature thing, so that if someone uses your friend's identity to get past your spamguard, the system could tell it was not him, and throw that into the junkbox, for example. A very smart system like boxsentry could use all these tools in some combination to effectively remove true spam, not end up spamming others unnecessarily with a blanket challenge/response approach, and make sure that real emails always get through.
Another simple way to reduce spam is to be
selective which email addresses I publish on the internet. For example, removing the
catchall was a first step. I only have certain email addresses now, so if anyone were to
send an email to email@example.com, it wouldn't even get to me, because that
automatic forward has been turned off.
Now lets say I want to advertise on the internet, like if I were looking for translators or customers. I might use the address translations41B@kenax.cz. If at some point I see that I am receiving a lot of spam to that email address, I remove the automatic forward from my system. Or I could get more sophisticated whereby I would first set it so that emails sent to that address would automatically get accepted without being subject to a challenge response. This is useful for a short-term advertising campaign, because many people are not interested in responding to such challenges. After a while, once such an advertised email gets added to some spammer's list and I start receiving too many spam emails to it, I can shift the address to the challenge/response mode, whereby any real person belatedly responding to my ad will have to respond to the challenge in order for their email to get through to me. And further down the road, when the advertising campaign has long ended, no real person is responding to it anymore, and I see I am getting tons of spam on it, I can remove the automatic forward, meaning the address does not exist anymore and email sent to it will disappear somewhere into cyberspace and evaporate.
The last effective way how you could help reduce
spam is by not advertising your email on the internet. Spammers will use a simple robot
which automatically scours the internet looking for the "MAILTO:" html code,
which would produce the link firstname.lastname@example.org
It would find such a link (or just search for the "@" character) and
automatically add that email to their spam list. They are certainly welcome to add my
email to the left, because it doesn't exist, heh heh. It will only help bog down their
smtp (sending) server. Heck, this industry is so developed, they even send out emails
offering someone money just by following some weblink. Once you manually press on the
link, or respond to such an email, you have proven you are a real person, adding much
greater value to your email address and it gets bumped up on their spam list. So if you
really need to advertise your main email address, you can put up a picture like , which can't be scanned,
or employ such simple tricks as writing kenax [AT] kenax.cz and hope your potential future
customer can figure it out, or write out your email address properly without a spelling
mistake. Or use a temporary email address as explained above, to make it easier for your
potential customers to contact you. Or use a contact form like mine.
Speaking of contact form, I got my programmers to develop that for me, but even that was
hacked into by spammers, so they developed it further to make it hack-proof. I can sell
this contact form for a small fee.
I heard this argument before, but email spamming
has nothing to do with your computer, or your operating system. Macintoshes and operating
systems like Linux are less susceptible to VIRUSES, but that is a totally different issue
from spam emails (you can read about computer
virus protection for more info). These systems can still get viruses, which have been
written just to prove a point, but they are much less likely to get viruses mostly because
such programmers simply do not bother writing viruses for these systems, for two reasons:
1) primarily because most people use Windows, meaning that's where all the money is. Many
programmers also detest Microsoft, possibly out of envy, and will write such software for
their own feeling of power; 2) the other systems are better designed against such hacking,
so the programmers don't bother.
But emailing is entirely different and depends on the propagation of your email address on spammers' lists and on the ability of your spam filter and all issues explained above. Once a spam email does get through, if it is also a virus, then things depend on the ability of your offline email client (such as MS Outlook) or your virus protection software to recognise and protect your system from such a virus. If you know what you are doing, you can use a PC and not have any problems, like me. But generally I'd give a thumbs up for Macintosh and Linux, if you have the money or know how to use a Linux. For my business though they pose too many limitations.
Related Links and Info
Because of my dissatisfaction with Vanquish I spent two days looking for better third party spam protection, unfortunately without success. If you know of any please tell me about it. In any case, thought I'd copy below what research and testing I did manage to accomplish.
looks like some simple program. Would need an smtp server.
could be interesting, check out and prices etc.
looks a bit cheesy and cheap, 50$ a year. Asking about smtp (didn't get response).
40$/year for their premium service (only one anyway?) looks a bit cheesy
15 day free trial
30 day free trial, looks fairly serious
18$/year to protect one address, 36 for two addresses
responded to with customer package (although expensive)
doesnt seem that I send through it etc. but someexternal filter?
seems good in terms oftweaking the level of spamblocking, but I guess you need an external smtp server..
30 day free trial, 50$ a year. Looks like the standard good package.
responded almost immediately, so potentially good support (asked me to just try it)
tried out but too simple for my needs. Good and regular support though.
many links to other services I think I checked them all out
many links to other services drew some links here, but has a bunch of other good links it seems:
Third Party POP3 or Network POP3 Proxy Challenge/Response
CleanMyMailbox http://www.cleanmymailbox.com/ (Reviews: 1) Nah
GoodbyeSpam http://www.goodbyespam.com/ ok
iPermitMail http://www.ipermitmail.com/ looks ok
0Spam.com http://www.0spam.com/ (Reviews: 1) seems half decent,free with one email account, verification can be in different languages couldnt get it working
Bluebottle http://www.bluebottle.com/ seems half decent
Affini http://www.affini.com/ (Reviews: 1) forces apayment for verification
Spam Snag http://spamsnag.com/
SpamBlocks http://www.spamblocks.net/ seems half decent
MailCircuit http://www.mailcircuit.com/ (Reviews: 1) expensive
myprivacy .ca http://www.myprivacy.ca/ for .ca domain registrations free service?
Email Validation Service http://www.evsmail.com/ seems junky?
Spam Wall http://www.spamwall.net/ seems okay
BoxSentry http://www.boxsentry.com/ seemsdarn good! Multiple languages, hierarchy filters etc. I think it can guarantee delivery? Teamed up with Habeas (http://www.habeas.com/en-US/Home/), is an email Reputation Services Provider that offers solutions for legitimate senders to monitor and manage their email reputation to ensure maximum deliverability. Unfortunately, seems all high end stuff and not for little ol me. :0(
AlienCamel http://aliencamel.com/ (Reviews: 1) could be rock solid but expensive (80$ without digital signature?). Apparently doesnt send challenge message.
checked the external links at the bottom directed to:
On google got to end of 1st page in search
spam block challenge response
seemed fairly good keywords
Based on all my findings I submitted the following proposals to my existing provider:
< direct webserver if some problem
< instructions for setting up at bottom
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