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In pursuit of easy

AppRiver provides Web-based access to an array of e-mail security solutions

By Nancy Doucette

Suppose 92% of the e-mail your organization receives were spam—digital junk mail. Unless you’re taking precautions to block spam, your organization may be on the verge of an electronic heart attack—a system crash. Spam eats bandwidth, essentially clogging the arteries of what has become the heart of most organizations—its computer system.

“Of all the e-mail traversing the Internet, about 92% of it is junk,” observes Scott Cutler, chief operating officer of AppRiver, an e-mail security and Web protection company that specializes in messaging.

As unwelcome as the spam is, it can be more than just a nuisance. The messages occasionally contain harmful attachments that, when opened, launch viruses which infect the computer.

Linda Trevino, chief operations officer for the 45-person Talon Insurance Agency, Ltd., with locations in Port Arthur and Tyler, Texas, knows all too well why viruses are sometimes called “malware.” Malicious software is just that—malicious. She recalls that viruses crashed several of the agency’s computers before the agency began subscribing to SecureTide™, AppRiver’s e-mail protection service.

“It would take a day—sometimes more—to fix the problem,” she recalls. “The lost productivity was unbeliev­able—for the employee whose computer crashed and for the agency.”

Nibby Priest, CIC, admits he wears a lot of hats for the seven-person Vaughn Insurance Agency Company based in Henderson, Kentucky. “Being a small business owner, I used to think it was fun to manage the technology for the agency,” he says. “However, as my duties have increased in terms of what I need to do in this office, I’m interested in outsourcing—in a hosted environment—as much of that maintenance work as I can.”

He began using AppRiver to filter spam and viruses. He says the daily SpamLab™ report that AppRiver generates reminds him of what a good decision he made. According to the report, about 98% of the e-mail that Vaughn Insurance receives is spam. “Thank goodness AppRiver grabs it before it gets to us,” Priest says.

“One of the easiest ways to get a virus is via e-mail,” he notes. “Since we use SecureTide, we don’t have to worry about it. All our outgoing e-mail goes through SecureTide as well so anyone getting an e-mail from us can rest assured that it’s not going to contain a virus.”

Tim Woodcock is president and CEO of Courtesy Computers, Inc. He says his company has been “managing IT for insurance agencies for 24 years. One of our jobs is to focus on increasing their productivity and security through the use of technology.”

He explains what a drain on resources spam can be. “Let’s assume that an agency’s cost per employee per hour is between $60 and $70. Take that and figure what it costs over a month’s time for employees to sift through their spam everyday.”

Woodcock says he uses SecureTide for Courtesy Computers’ spam and virus filtering. “I have such confi­dence in the spam filtering that I don’t even look at it,” he explains. “It blocks the spam before it even comes into our domain. It increases productivity ten-fold.”

Courtesy Computers is a reseller of AppRiver’s products, Woodcock notes. “Every one of our customers that has a Microsoft Exchange server for messaging now runs AppRiver’s SecureTide spam and virus protection in their environment,” he says.

AppRiver’s Cutler explains that the SecureTide proprietary filtering system is continually updated—some 2,000 to 4,000 times per day—to “ensure protection from even the newest spammer tricks and tactics. That’s how fast spam evolves,” he states.

On top of that, he adds, AppRiver uses four virus scanning engines and more than 60 filtering techniques to foil spammers. All this has to take place in a quarter to a third of a second, Cutler says. “If it takes much more than that, then you start causing delays.”

Business continuity component

An additional benefit to using SecureTide is disaster recovery, something that the Talon Agency has had to use way too often, according to Linda Trevino. An electrical fire in September 2004 forced the agency to relocate for nine months. Then Hurricane Rita hit in September 2005 leaving the agency without power for three weeks. When Hurricane Ike came through in September 2008, the Port Arthur location was displaced for a week. “We’re always happy when October 1 rolls around,” she says with a smile.

Cutler notes that AppRiver’s data centers are located in inland Texas, Hong Kong and London, England. Rerouting e-mail from an agency’s server to AppRiver is “literally a five-minute process,” he says. “We can populate the e-mail on one of our e-mail systems or we’ll repoint the e-mail to wherever the agency would like us to direct it.

“When a customer’s e-mail server goes down, AppRiver automatically encrypts and queues all their e-mail,” he says. “Client-side servers stop accepting e-mail for any number of reasons—Internet connection failures, power outages, natural disaster, internal routing problems or mail server hardware or software failures. We hang on to the e-mail until we hear from the customer. Then we’ll deliver it to them wherever—including turning on a temporary e-mail service for them.”

Trevino says the electrical fire gave the agency a “taste of what AppRiver could do. Our e-mail server wasn’t usable and we didn’t have enough Internet connectivity. They worked after hours to be sure we were operational.

“SecureTide is a great transition tool,” she states. “All we have to do is ask AppRiver to hold our e-mails. Nothing gets to the server. When we’re ready, we call them and ask them to release the e-mails.”

Unlimited storage

Cutler notes that being able to manage a lot of e-mail led AppRiver to launch its secure Exchange Hosting. “It simplifies the set up, provisioning and management of Microsoft Exchange—Microsoft’s e-mail platform,” he says.

“About 65% of the business community uses Exchange,” he explains. “It’s flexible so users can retrieve e-mail using some kind of smartphone. Exchange also makes it possible for users to share contacts and calendars. There are certainly other mail servers available but if you’re connected to Exchange, it just works.”

AppRiver offers unlimited e-mail storage with its Exchange Hosting. “It doesn’t matter how many e-mails you store or how much e-mail you send or receive. It’s all one price,” Cutler notes.

Additionally, SecureTide is embedded at no extra charge. “That’s key,” he emphasizes. “No ‘pollution’ can get to the Exchange farms. That’s an important security consideration.”

“Right now my Outlook is in three different places,” Vaughn’s Nibby Priest declares. “It’s in my pocket—on my iPhone—it’s on my desktop and it’s at AppRiver. All three of those locations are syncing all the time. If I make a change on my iPhone, within seconds it’s at the AppRiver server and back at my workstation. That’s a huge benefit.”

Priest says in his quest to outsource as much technology maintenance work as he can, he decided to let AppRiver host his e-mail a couple of years ago. When he had the Exchange server in-house he had to make sure the e-mail backup ran successfully every night. Now that’s AppRiver’s job.

He also appreciates the “every­where access” that the Hosted Exchange provides. “It’s full-fledged Exchange,” Priest says. “I can use it on my iPhone; I can sync calendars; I have access to the general mailboxes.”

Priest says AppRiver’s Hosted Exchange includes a control panel that makes it easy for him to add or delete users, or reset passwords. The end result is that he’s able to spend more time with clients and less time managing the agency’s e-mail system.

Security blanket

Continuing in its mission of simplifying technology as much as possible while keeping e-mail secure, AppRiver began offering on-demand encryption in early 2009. “There’s nothing secure about e-mail,” Cutler observes. “It’s like sending a postcard. If you’re sending something important and private, you need to encrypt it.”

AppRiver’s CipherPost™ e-mail encryption offering encrypts messages at the desktop—which is important, according to Cutler. “There are systems where the e-mail goes to an encryption gateway so the trip from the desktop to the gateway is open and the message could be intercepted. With CipherPost, the message is encrypted the moment the user presses the ‘Send Secure’ button in their Outlook.”

Linda Trevino says that Talon Insurance recently added CipherPost to the AppRiver services that the agency uses in an effort to better protect data in transit. “It is Outlook compatible and was simple to install on the workstations,” she notes.

E-mail encryption is a topic that Courtesy Computers’ Woodcock says he always discusses with their customers. When agencies are moving clients’ sensitive data to carriers at renewal time, he says, encryption is vital. If an unsecured e-mail containing client information were intercepted, an E&O situation could result.

On the other hand, agencies using e-mail encryption might find themselves enjoying a competitive advantage over neighboring agencies that aren’t as security-minded.

Woodcock explains there’s a one-time set-up between the communi­cating pair. From then on everything that’s sent between the two parties—e-mail and attachments—can be encrypted by pressing the “Send Secure” button.

More tools

Cutler points out that AppRiver has also added a Web protection system to its line of solutions. SecureSurf™ is another line of defense against malware that might gain access to an agency’s computers via the Internet. For instance, if an employee were surfing the Web and landed on a site that had malware on it, that would essentially invite the malware into the agency.

“Our Web protection engine recognizes incoming malware, even if it’s buried in a link. It will break the download connection. This is all happening rapidly and transparently to the end user. SecureSurf is a system that’s designed around protecting the agency from becoming infected or compromised,” Cutler says.

With organizations’ growing dependence on e-mail, AppRiver has entered into the e-mail archiving realm by way of a partnership with Global Relay. Cutler explains that archiving is “basically taking a copy of an e-mail, encrypting it and storing it in a secure, centralized facility.” Given that an agency’s data can be a lifesaver in the event of a lawsuit, being able to produce relevant information quickly is a growing concern.

Cutler says that Global Relay offers rapid search and retrieval via full text indexing. It can perform searches on messages, headers and attachments.

Until recently, Cutler points out, all of AppRiver’s solutions resided at different URLs and each view was different. All the solutions are now integrated into a security suite with a unified interface. “Our Customer Portal is a one-stop shop,” he says. Even with the unified interface, he says, all the solutions are still available on an a la carte basis, with a 30-day free trial.

Using the Customer Portal at the AppRiver Web site, customers or prospects can try the spam filter by simply filling out a form, Cutler explains. “The ‘here’s how it works’ conversation takes about three minutes,” he says. If an agency wants to add or test-drive the encryption tool, it’s a push of a button. They add their e-mail address and they’re ready to go. “The Customer Portal is designed around a simple idea: You set it and forget it,” Cutler concludes.

For more information:

Web site:


“We update our spam and virus filtering system some 2,000 to 4,000 times a day. That’s how fast spam evolves.”

—Scott Cutler
Chief Operating Officer


AppRiver’s Customer Portal includes an intuitive dashboard to view key statistics and features, including blocked spam, virus and phishing attempts, current trends, and service alerts. The Portal also offers administrators the ability to manage account information and a multitude of service settings.












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