Reduce spam – don’t be a zombie

spam1Every year spam becomes a bigger issue. People ask me why…surely no one’s falling for the Nigerian scams, right? No one really buys generic viagra from strangers?

Actually, they do. And if 0.0001% of all spam receives a response – that’s 1 in a million – those spammers make millions.

Sadly, the costs of sending all those emails are next to nothing. Spammers use hackers, trojan horses, and viruses to take over “zombie” computers. All the email is routed through these unwitting accomplice PCs and servers. So they send millions, they receive a small but steady flow of responses, and they get rich.

Think this isn’t for real? One time we were talking to a prospective client about their email issues. When we got on their server, we found a dozen spammers connected, with 4,000 emails queued up and ready to send. We booted them off, only to have another dozen reappear within minutes. Until a better firewall could be put into place, there was little to do but disconnect Internet access.

It’s not limited to servers either. We brought in a client PC that had been infected by a virus. While we were working on it, someone accidentally connected it to our Internet connection, and it sent so much spam our very own email was temporarily blacklisted. Legitimate emails sent to clients and prospects bounced until we got that corrected.

The solution? It’s all about security. If you thought a robber was casing the neighborhood, you’d check the alarm system, your deadbolt, your window locks…do the same thing with your computer network. Make sure you’ve got a business-class firewall, anti-virus protection on every single machine, and intrusion detection if you can afford it.

Keep in mind, robbers can break into even the best protected homes if there’s reason; likewise, hackers can break into any network if they really want. Just be sure  you haven’t left the front door wide open.

Not sure if your current IT guy has you covered? Have an independent third party run an external scan. If they can get in, so can the spammers.

Three reasons you should use a service for your ezine

iContact Email ServiceI ran into a colleague recently who was excited about a free email blast program he’d downloaded. With this program, he could send email directly from his computer. He thought it was great that he was going to save $30/month in subscription fees on his email marketing.

That excitement turned quickly to chagrin when I explained key reasons it’s better to use an online service like iContact (this is the one we use).

First and foremost, the good email services work closely with internet service providers (ISPs) to ensure that your email actually reaches your targeted destination. A desktop program is nearly worthless if you’ve been flagged as a spammer and all your emails get blocked.

Another reason a service is better is that many ISPs and mail servers limit the number of emails you can send simultaneously. You may think you’ve sent hundreds of messages only to find out later that just 50 actually made it past your ISP. The tricky part about all this is that you may not get any error messages so there’s no obvious way to be sure what happened. A service is built with mass quantities of email in mind and has reporting built right in. This provides detailed stats on what was delivered, what was opened, what was forwarded, and what was clicked.

Third reason: CAN-SPAM regulations went into effect a few years ago. They’ve had little impact on spam, which is more of a problem than ever, but nonetheless we small business owners must comply or risk governmental wrath. Services generally enforce regulatory requirements, including simple subscription management for your recipients. This eases any worries over legal ramifications.

There are many additional features and benefits which vary by provider. We like iContact because of the easy-to-use interface, great reports, surveys, and multi-message autoresponders (I’ll post later about all the cool things you can do with this feature!).

Not sure whether it’s for you? Most services offer a free trial so you can try before you buy.