The Spam Challenge: Protecting the Delivery of Legitimate Email

About Osborne Clarke

Osborne Clarke is one of Europe’s most respected and dynamic law firms. Their success, recognized by the UK Law Firm of the Year award, 2006, is the result of delivering excellent, business-focused legal advice in an energetic, straightforward and efficient way.

Supporting their clientele and business operations which includes over 700 people active in 18 locations across Europe and an office in the US, requires considerable investment in technology. Email has become the hub for all of Osborne Clarke’s business activity and is the main form of communications with clients.

As such, a resilient email infrastructure is vital in supporting a 24/7 business operation. Nathan Hayes, Head of Infrastructure and Technology at Osborne Clarke points out: “Email has always been central to our line of business applications. Exchange is the communications hub for our content management system, client management system and many of our legal applications.

As early adopters of unified messaging technologies, faxing to and from desktop is done via Exchange, even voicemail is accessed via our people’s inboxes. As such email is a fundamental mechanism for all forms of communications with our clients.”

The spam challenge

Like most businesses, Osborne Clarke was experiencing increased volumes of spam. In late 2006, they became a target of a significant email-based distributed denial of service attack, receiving a massive 1.5 million spam emails in a day.

The existing on-premise anti-spam software was under severe strain, but it was the ISP relay that had trouble with extreme peaks of spam traffic, causing the email service to slow to an unacceptable level, not to mention the near complete utilization of bandwidth. Nathan Hayes decided a new solution was required to maintain an acceptable level of risk. He started to evaluate outsourced email security technologies which were more resilient and scalable.

‘Where did that email go?’ …the search for legitimate email

Previously all spam that was quarantined would be filed into each user’s spam folder on their PC. Significant time was spent by users managing the spam, but also searching through the quarantine folder for legitimate email that had been wrongly quarantined. This increasing problem known as ‘false-positive email’, heavily impacted on user productivity and satisfaction.

Seeking an innovative and new solution

Osborne Clarke comprehensively evaluated Mimecast and a traditional Managed Service Provider. Mimecast became the obvious choice for Osborne Clarke, as it provides ‘unified email management’ delivered via the Internet. Mimecast unifies the three major elements of email management: security, continuity and archiving into a single online system controlled in real-time via a rich web console.

A new approach to security

Moving to Mimecast meant Osborne Clarke could take advantage of a triple resilient, carrier-grade infrastructure and eliminate its spam issue. Mimecast’s CEO Peter Bauer explains: “Mimecast’s security approach to email operates by applying multiple real-time security tests on-the wire or in protocol. If the email is spam, the connection is dropped and the spam is left undeliverable at source.”

Mimecast’s approach pays off in a big way: “Traditional email / security technologies use on-disk methods whereby all mail is accepted to disk before applying security checks. Consequently any influxes in spam cause delays and place severe processing strain on internal infrastructure.

However, Mimecast’s on-the-wire approach means 99% of spam is dropped, and our customers are unaffected by increased volumes of spam and email-based Denial of Service. Quite simply, spam is left with the spammers,” explains Peter Bauer.

Nathan Hayes highlights: “By moving to an online service, we are able to remove the burden of managing hardware and software onsite. Most importantly, Mimecast gave us the results we were looking for during our extensive evaluation. We were brought onto the service within days, and instantly received the protection we required to eliminate spam and latency problems.

In the first week the service was stopping in excess of 1.5 million spam messages a day. We have freed up time and resource that had been locked in battle with spammers. For example, we no longer need to manage any quarantine, and upgrades to the system are performed by Mimecast.”

Eliminating false positives

Nathan comments: “We found that legitimate email would often be caught by the previous anti-spam software and subsequently quarantined. Our users often reported expected email being unacceptably delayed or redirected to their quarantine folder and so time consuming to find.

Mimecast intelligently avoids this problem as it tracks each and every email relationship and syncs with our Active Directory and can therefore apply far more intelligence when receiving email. “Now there is significant improvement in user productivity and a dramatic reduction in support calls to our Help Desk. We can even access the full audit trail of any attempted mail delivery.”

Delivering a continuous email service

To protect email service availability, Mimecast provides ‘Always on email’ which keeps users working in the event of a scheduled or unscheduled outage. Osborne Clarke users can log onto the Mimecast web console and directly access incoming queued email. They can also read, reply, forward, create new messages, and search their personal historic email archive.

“The continuity service was a key factor in deciding to go with Mimecast as there were no other true solutions in the marketplace. Coupling this with our existing exchange environment gives us a configuration to support our stringent uptime KPIs” says Nathan Hayes.

Rapid implementation time and cost savings

Nathan Hayes adds: “We were impressed with the speed at which we were able to move from a standing start to full implementation. Within days we were under the protection of Mimecast against the DDOS, resulting in the deflection of millions of spam emails a day. Exchange integrates seamlessly with Mimecast, and we can access the command console from any web browser.”

“People tend not to calculate the hidden costs associated with managing spam. Mimecast removes unnecessary, complex activities and streamlines our operations. Plugging into an online service means the team can spend more of its time finding new ways to add value to our business. We started our search for a solution to our spam problem, but now have a comprehensive turnkey solution for all aspects of email.”

Osborne Clarke
Sector: Legal
Size: 1,000+ End Users
Location: United Kingdom
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