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Toward Responsible Mail Servers

Should mail-server vendors abdicate responsibility for the proliferation of viruses and spam to third parties?

Microsoft updated its APIs to help antivirus and antispam vendors better integrate their wares into the message flow of Exchange 2003. But should mail-server vendors abdicate responsibility for the proliferation of viruses and spam to third parties? Antivirus and antispam technologies shouldn't be considered add-ons to mail servers.

To be sure, Exchange and other mail servers are strengthened by tightly integrating technologies from antivirus and antispam vendors. These vendors specialize in developing solutions to combat the bad guys. By publishing APIs that enable these vendors to integrate their antivirus and antispam solutions, Microsoft, IBM and other mail-server vendors are charting a responsible course.

But the feeble efforts by mail-server vendors to provide their own protective solutions are irresponsible. About the best that Microsoft and IBM have been able to offer with their latest mail-server packages is real-time blacklist capabilities. That's like shooting a pea through a straw at a runaway elephant.

We advocate a more responsible course of action for today's mail-server vendors that includes providing hooks for third-party vendors and decent virus and spam protection out of the box. IBM, Microsoft and other vendors should stay the course in their efforts to provide well-documented hooks into mail systems that third-party vendors can use to integrate their own products. Customers who want to implement best-of-breed solutions--and have budgets sufficient to cover the additional costs--can implement the solutions of their choice. Mail vendors should buy, license or develop decent antivirus and antispam technologies and include them in their products.

Customers who want a single-vendor solution or have limited budgets will appreciate the extra effort. And it's the responsible thing to do.

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