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Google Message Security Spam Protection for Chester Zoo

Ancoris : 07 July, 2010  (Application Story)
Chester Zoo in the north west of England has taken a cloud based security service from Ancoris to protect the organisation from spam
Staff at the internationally renowned Chester Zoo have been able to concentrate on their mission of conserving biodiversity worldwide—and looking after the 7000 animals from 400 species housed in the Zoo's 110 acres—without drowning under a deluge of spam emails, thanks to Google Message Security supplied by Ancoris, a UK-based specialist integrator of cloud-computing, collaboration, security and service delivery solutions.

Martin King, IT systems supervisor at the Zoo, explains that each email user was typically seeing 50 to 100 spam messages a day, and the level was rising. 'We were running McAfee Anti-Spam but it was very limited, just offering blacklists and whitelists, and it wasn't performing as needed to stop spam getting to users' inboxes,' he explains. 'We were also getting a lot of false positives. As a specialist environment, we need to let through messages with words that most solutions classify as spam, such as medical terms and latin names.'

Any new solution therefore not only needed to cut down on both the spam getting through but also the amount of legitimate email that was incorrectly quarantined. Cost was also a key factor for the Zoo, which is operated by a registered charity, the North of England Zoological Society. Finally, the Zoo wanted a hosted solution so that it didn't have to waste bandwidth downloading emails to its own servers before it could process them.

The zoo evaluated the two main vendors of hosted solutions, MessageLabs and Google Message Security. 'Both were highly rated by the IT community in terms of features, but there was a big price difference,' says King. 'We saw no major technical benefit of choosing Message Labs over Google Message Security and, as a charity, cost is a key factor.'

After speaking to several suppliers of Google Message Security, the Zoo chose Ancoris as its supplier because it quickly became obvious that Ancoris offered superior support. 'They were the only people we were able to get through to on our first try, they were immediately able to provide us with a lot of information, and they weren't pushy,' King says.

He says that initial impression has been borne out over the three years the Zoo has worked with Ancoris. 'They're very knowledgeable about the product, and they're always there on the end of the phone when we need them,' he says. 'We never have to wait to get through, and whenever we've needed help, their staff have always done more than asked to make sure the issue was resolved.'

He adds that getting the solution in place to funnel all mail through Google Message Security was 'amazingly easy and we haven't needed to touch it since we set it up. It provides lots of tools to check mail is being received, it's easy to customise it with safe senders and safe key words, while setting up new users is as simple as going to the portal and typing in a new email address.'

For staff, he says, 'the solution is very easy to learn and use: every single user has been able to pick up on their first day how to check what's been quarantined in their spam filter and how to add safe senders and safe keywords.'

Google Message Security is now protecting the inboxes of 380 staff at the Zoo, ensuring the 10 per cent of incoming email that's legitimate gets through, while weeding out the 90 per cent that's spam.

King says 'It's one of the best solutions the zoo has ever purchased, providing massive time and cost savings for us. As well as saving staff from wasting 30 minutes to an hour each morning sifting through spam emails to find the legitimate ones, and protecting them from seeing content that they don't want to see, we've reduced the load on our email server from handling around 350,000 emails a month to just 35,000.'

However, he explains, the biggest cost saving has been in bandwidth. 'That's at a premium at the Zoo, because we're a long way from the exchange and that makes the cost high. Not wasting unnecessary bandwidth downloading emails before we can process them pays for the solution on a yearly basis.'

He adds that the performance of the system has also been impressive. 'It's as robust as anything I've ever dealt with,' he says. 'It's been up for 100 per cent of the time, and you can't ask for better from a managed solution. It's also very reliable: even in our first month, before we'd carried out much customisation with safe senders and safe keywords, we saw a significant drop in both spam getting through and in false positives. Now we get almost no false positives.'

David McLeman, managing director of Ancoris, says, 'Chester Zoo is a great example of how Google Message Security provides sophisticated spam filtering even in an environment where legitimate emails contain many words that most organisations would want to block. The savings the Zoo is seeing in terms of bandwidth and server load also demonstrate the effectiveness of using a Software-as-a-Service solution like Google Message Security for spam filtering. We're delighted to be playing a small part in helping the Zoo in its conservation and education work.'

The Zoo has recently re-evaluated GMS against Message Labs and sees no reason to switch. 'It would be a lot of work to re-implement our blacklists, whitelists and safe keywords for no real benefit, while Ancoris has continued to offer us very keen pricing,' King says. 'Pricing for adding new users over the past three years has always been very reasonable. More than that, we'd lose the very good relationship we have with Ancoris.'
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