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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY - E-COMMUNICATION IS THE FACE OF EVERY FIRM

Mail-savvy companies know security is key

WITHOUT an e-mail system that functions properly, no company can expect to convince potential customers of its quality or reliability. So what should a firm look for in setting up an email service or improving its existing technology?

Companies should not underestimate the importance of e-mail security.
photo: SITA

WITHOUT an e-mail system that functions properly, no company can expect to convince potential customers of its quality or reliability. So what should a firm look for in setting up an email service or improving its existing technology?

The answer, say IT firms, is security. However, before arming themselves to the eyebrows, prospective buyers should consider the sector they operate in and their relative size.

Richard Marko, chief financial officer of Digital Systems, said that while external threats do not distinguish between small and large firms, bigger companies present better targets. "Larger firms are more likely to be threatened, so they have to invest more time and money in protection," he said.

Smaller companies often do not even have their own mail servers, but instead use the services of their Internet providers. In such cases, security is up to providers, most of whom now offer a basic protection package including spam and virus prevention as part of their basic packages.

Standard protection may not be enough for more sensitive information, such as might be communicated by a law firm. Such customers may opt for encrypted e-mail, where the additional costs and potential user headaches are justified by the security of encrypted protection.

"Security is the number one concern," said Jana Ohrablová, marketing manager for Anasoft APR. However, she added, firms are often willing to increase their e-mail security only after they or a related firm experiences a breakdown because of a virus problem or a data leak.

Those who can afford it tend to set up their own mail servers that can be administered by an external firm. "Having your own server carries with it many advantages," Marko said. "You can set it and administer it according to your own needs and internal rules, for example."

While smaller firms and individuals may rely on final station protection systems that screen mail as it arrives at each PC, large corporations use centralized systems. All subsidiaries receive their electronic mail in one common location that may even be situated abroad. The central server increases the protection and control of e-mail.

"Big companies and state institutions need to have their e-mail service available 99.9 percent of the time. This means they need special technology for monitoring mail and dividing up the mail burden. There are not many such products available globally, but one of them is produced in Slovakia," Marko added.

For small to mid-sized companies setting up an e-mail system, Ohrablová had the following advice: "The first important thing is the provider, which must be a stable firm with a good reputation. Providers are available for good rates that can ensure you constant access to the Web.

"We usually recommend that a firm has its own mail server. Then you have to choose the right type of connection (this can be popular ADSL or FWA), router/firewall, and finally software for the mail server."

Both Anasoft APR and Digital Systems suggest browsing the catalogue of firms offering mail solutions and maintenance service. The ideal choice does not have to be a large firm, because they tend to focus on solutions for larger clients.

"Small and mid-sized companies should choose small to mid-sized local IT firms that are known on the market and are willing to give them both advice and services. Large firms and institutions usually select a supplier through a tender, and they know exactly what they need," said Marko.

Finally, companies should not forget to look at any e-mail system they are thinking of introducing from the perspective of the user. E-mail software should allow the creation of aliases and out-of-office replies, and should also offer a calendar, the option to categorize messages, and so on.

After all, even the most secure e-mail system on the market can't stop a disgruntled user from making your company look like it doesn't belong in the information age.

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