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Spammers are winning--and it's not even close

At this point, there is only one thing for us to do, says analyst Jon Oltsik. Purchase the best antispam protection that money can buy.

If you spend an inordinate amount of time deleting the spam messages from your in-box, you are not alone.

According to the Web site trustedsource.org, there were a total of 154.3 billion mail messages sent around the world Sunday and 117.4 billion of them were spam. For those of you without a calculator, this means that 76 percent of those e-mail messages were spam. That's slightly below Symantec's recent monthly spam report, which claimed that on average 78.5 percent of e-mail messages are spam. Maybe Sunday was a slow day.

Remember a few years ago when industry and political leaders were trying to find a way to eliminate spam at its source? Congress passed the "Can-Spam Act," while Microsoft filed suit against 15 global spammers. Meanwhile, the security industry was actively trying to address spam at the technology level by establishing reputation services and tweaking domain name system services. Worthy efforts that haven't paid off.

At this point, there is only one thing for us common folk to do--purchase the best antispam protection that money can buy. You'd think this would be good news for the abundant number of me-too antispam vendors out there, but this is not so. Many second-tier vendors can't keep up under the growing deluge of spam so their products are becoming less effective over time. As a result, I see a lot of companies giving up on generic vendors and moving to market-leading products from Cisco Systems/IronPort and Symantec/BrightMail.

In the ultimate irony, more spam is actually bad for business for many in the antispam business. Go figure.

The big winners in the antispam war will likely be the service providers. Small organizations want to rid user mailboxes of spam but have no desire to buy and operative expensive antispam boxes. That's good news for Frontbridge (aka Microsoft) and Postini (Google), while other players like IBM and Trend Micro are also offering creative alternative solutions. Cisco/IronPort and Symantec/BrightMail must supplement products with managed services. Yes, each is dabbling in this area already. But managed services will soon dominate antispam solutions, so timing is essential.

As for the rest of us, it may be time to throw in the proverbial towel--unfortunately, spam has achieved a "certainty" status along with death and taxes. Fighting seems hopeless at this point. The best bet is to buy the best protection you can afford and move on.