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Microsoft extends availability of spam filter

More Microsoft customers will have access to the soon-to-be released Intelligent Messaging Filter (IMF) under a plan quietly announced by the software maker this week.

Microsoft has changed its mind about who will get to use its soon-to-be released spam filter.

During a public discussion this week on how to fight spam using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, the software maker made it official that its Intelligent Messaging Filter (IMF) will be available to all IT shops running Exchange 2003 and Office 2003. The news was tucked into a Webcast hosted by Mohammad Nadeem, a problem control engineer for escalation services at Microsoft.

IMF was originally earmarked for customers with a Software Assurance maintenance agreement in their licensing contracts.

Exchange's new IMF technology is far too important to limit its availability …

Peter Pawlak, analyst, Directions on Microsoft

Meanwhile, Microsoft has confirmed that IMF will be released at the TechEd conference later this month.

One analyst hailed Microsoft's decision to make IMF more widely available as common sense. "Exchange's new IMF technology is far too important to limit its availability to the small percentage of its Exchange customer base that purchased Software Assurance," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based consulting firm.

"One of the key ways Microsoft can keep Exchange competitive -- and induce its installed base to upgrade to Exchange 2003 -- is to aggressively pursue new antispam technologies such as the IMF and "e-mail caller ID," he said. "And [Microsoft should] get them into the hands of customers as quickly as it reasonably can."

Another analyst said the software is just one tool to help add some level of spam protection, but it's no cure. Antispam software and antivirus software are best used when coupled together.

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And some kind of third-party product will probably remain in the mix, said Mark Levitt, an analyst at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

Levitt said it's hard to tell how well antispam products are performing, but he said any product's success will depend on how well the vendor keeps it up to date.

Customers doubt that legislation will do much to slow the flow of spam pouring into their inboxes. "Even though [the Can Spam Act] has been in effect since early January, spam levels are worse than ever," said Paul Phi, a network engineer at Boston-based Plymouth Rock Assurance Corp.

Phi recently purchased an antispam tool from Sybari Software Inc., East Northport, N.Y., that was developed in conjunction with Commtouch Software Ltd., of Mountain View, Calif.

As an insurer, Plymouth has to be concerned with receiving false positives because it's not unusual for it to have e-mails that mention body parts, words that are often flagged as spam. Spam also causes a big loss in productivity because of the time lost by users in cleaning up their inboxes, Phi said.

Phi said his company will probably use IMF eventually, in addition to its current antispam product, when the insurer upgrades its Exchange servers and Office clients.

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