Hay House, a book publisher based in Carlsbad, Calif., was founded 24 years ago and has grown to become one of the largest self-help publishers in the world with 125 employees in the U.S. and locations in four different continents. The publishing house relies on e-mail for internal communication and for communicating with writers, often sending manuscripts back and forth. But employees were being deluged with spam – the company receives up to 10,000 spam messages per day – until information technology director Mike Fishell and his staff installed an e-mail security appliance.
Elizabeth Wasserman: What are the plusses and minuses of using e-mail in your business?
Mike Fishell: It’s much faster for moving information around. Whether it’s information for a book, fact-checking, public relations, or passing on quotes to be inserted into our books, we rely on our e-mail. We also have offices located in time zones that don’t match up. We have offices in the U.K., Australia, South Africa, and India, in addition to the U.S. So if it’s noon in London and someone e-mails us with something that has to be addressed that day, we can get back to them before they go home that night. We also may receive manuscripts via e-mail from our authors. Instead of sending a manuscript via FedEx, they can e-mail it to us directly.
Wasserman: What are the security risks to a business posed by relying on e-mail? Do you get a lot of spam?
Fishell: We get in the neighborhood of 10,000 spam messages a day.
Wasserman: What did you do about that?
Fishell: We were using software-based spam solutions in the past, but the spam problem was growing faster than our application could deal with it. I looked at appliances and Axway’s Mailgate was the first one I brought in-house for a trial. It worked so well that we couldn’t even think of taking it out of production. The trial unit we were sent was kept in production for three years.
Wasserman: What does it do? How does it help you?
Fishell: It helps us with spam by using a context-based algorithm. Some of our books may deal with health and we may have the word Viagra show up in a book, maybe with someone giving medical advice related to it. It’s not in the context of someone trying to sell it, because that wouldn’t be delivered to the mailbox. Our users receive an e-mail every day at 5 p.m. showing everything that was quarantined by the filter. They have an option to release it to themselves or ignore it.
Wasserman: What have the results been?
Fishell: On the inbound side, the time savings is money savings. I do a report once a year for the directors explaining the cost savings associated with it. I have calculated out in the thousands and thousands of dollars in terms of man hours for our people not having to delete spam. The cost savings worked out to about $54,000 a year in terms of man-hours we would have spent deleting spam.
There are a lot of these e-mails being sent around maybe directing people to a website and it’s not enough of an e-mail to be caught as spam or a virus. But it directs them to a website that may have malicious intentions. We’re able to plug keywords into our filter and have it blocked in a matter of minutes instead of waiting for the virus companies to have something out there to block one. I don’t have to worry about anyone clicking on the link.
It also allows me to set policies to prevent certain types of sensitive data from being e-mailed outside the office accidentally. Not only viruses, but personal information or confidential information, certain contracts we don’t want leaving the building, or proprietary material we don’t want leaving the building.
In terms of time management, it’s nice having something in the business that doesn’t require babysitting. I take a look at the reports once a day. If I skip looking at the reports once a day, I’m not worried. The box gets restarted once or twice a year. That and software updates a couple times a year and you can pretty much set it and forget it.