Cloud Based Email Filtering & Security – Why Have It?

Since working in IT, which is over 16 years now, I’ve seen first hand how emails have become such an essential communication tool. Whether it’s for business or personal use, email is a big part of everyone’s life. There are so many uses for it, but I want to talk about how it’s used in a modern organisation and how areas are often overlooked, or underestimated. So this blog article is all about the best way to protect your organisation, and the benefits of cloud based protection.

What is it?

So what is cloud based filtering? It’s a bit like post, we all get our post delivered to our front door but usually along with lots of junk, leaflets and you have to sift through it all to find the post you want. But if you could have someone in a sorting office somewhere taking out the takeaway leaflets and only allowing the letters you want coming through your letterbox, we’d all be happier!

Cloud based email filtering is quite simply a filtering solution that is not based within your existing infrastructure. It means all your emails are scanned and filtered on a hosted server, cleaning out all the stuff you don’t want and only allowing through the right emails.

The diagram below shows a simplified view of how this looks, you can see that your emails are all filtered before they reach your network.

cloud filtering

The Benefits

Having a cloud based filter brings a number of benefits and when you compare these to not having anything, it’s clear to see why you’d want to implement it:

  • Store & forward – Imagine your exchange server went down and someone tried to email you externally, without a store & forward service, the sender would get a bounce back or undeliverable message, which doesn’t look very professional. With store & forward, and a downed exchange, your incoming emails would be collected in the cloud and held until your server comes back online, and then forwards them all through allowing you to not miss any emails. 
  • Remote scanning for spam – The cloud based solution uses a spam filter that intelligently picks up unwanted mail, and can also be customised by the user to select junk senders etc.
  •  Remote scanning for viruses / malicious content – Most cloud based filters have 2 or 3 anti-virus engines scanning your emails for viruses, malicious software, adware and spyware, all before it reaches your network, reducing the risk of infection or you infecting other contacts. 
  • Reduction in bandwidth use – Bandwidth performance is also often overlooked. Say for example you get 5000 emails a day into your exchange, and 2000 of those are unwanted spam messages, just imagine how much bandwidth that takes up from your internet connection. By filtering them remotely, you will free up some bandwidth which it always a plus! 
  • Reduction in server resources – So picture all these filters and scanners working remotely, this means that your server is not doing it locally, thus freeing up valuable resources of CPU, RAM and hard drive performance on your exchange server. This goes for mailbox sizes as well as a lot of the junk will never even enter your inbox. 
  • Daily Digest – You still want to know what emails have been caught in the filter don’t you? So what you need is a digest that appears in your inbox every so often to show you an overview of emails that are held. Occasionally a client or someone important could send you an email and you don’t get it, simply check your digest to see if it’s caught in the filter. Also if your client was infected and they didn’t know, this would also protect you from such issues and you could tell them if they appear to have been infected!

 Any extras?

So apart from the filtering element, what other benefits does cloud based email filtering give you? Well companies such as Mimecast offer additional services that are really beneficial, such as:

  • Continuity – this product allows emails to flow directly to your laptop, mobile device even in the event of your exchange being down. This bypass allows comms to continue to flow and then will switch back to your exchange when it’s repaired.
  • Archiving – Many organisations need to keep an archive of their emails for compliance reasons, having a cloud archive keeps them nice and safe should you ever need to refer to them. 

Why Have It?

So in summary, I have always recommended having a cloud based filter as it just makes sense to protect yourself. Avoiding this can leave you open to risk, so it’s best to find a dedicated provider that specialises in this solution (such as Mimecast). Even if you have cloud based hosted exchange such as Microsoft Office365, their built in filter still wont be as good as a dedicated remote filter.

When it comes to cost, it wont break the bank and the list of benefits always justifies the spend!

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