11 August 2012
This article describes how I use the SpamSieve product for Mac OS X to provide server-side spam filtering.
For years, I hosted my email on a dedicated server leased by our company. On the client side (a Mac, in my case) I used SpamSieve—a commercial product that’s more effective than Apple’s included spam filter—to keep my inbox free of spam.
Things got tricky, though, when I switched from POP to IMAP, in order to access my email on both a laptop and a desktop computer, particularly because of the self-training nature of spam filters like SpamSieve. See, although you might teach the spam filter on your laptop that a particular message is spam, the same filter on your desktop will have also seen the message and, though self-training, taught itself that it’s good!
Things got further complicated when I got an iPhone and iPad, and began using Mail in mobile environment that didn’t even offer client-side spam filtering. I’d go on a travel, check my email at the airport, and have to slog through hundreds of spam messages (paying 3G data rates to boot!)
Due to the amount of spam I receive, I finally switched to online email providers like iCloud and Gmail, given their server-side spam filtering capabilities.
But I wasn’t happy about having to do that; I much prefer having control of my own email. And by now, we’ve all heard about the risks of entrusting your email to others. Indeed, it was those risks that led me to switch back to self-hosted email, even with the burden of having to deal with spam myself.
That burden, though, was elegantly resolved this morning, as I revisited my old friend SpamSieve, and discovered a newly supported feature which provides the same single-point spam management I had with Gmail or iCloud.
Here’s how it works:
So how does this work?
My home iMac is continually checking my email. SpamSieve on that machine is continually processing the email, moving any messages it thinks are spam to the “Spam” folder — keeping my inbox pretty much spam-free for my MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad.
But what happens when SpamSieve makes a mistake?
If I’m checking mail on my iPhone, and see a spam message that SpamSieve missed, I simply move the message to the “TrainSpam” IMAP folder — that’s two taps on the iPhone. The next time the home iMac checks email, SpamSieve will see that message in the “TrainSpam” folder, and self-train itself to recognize those type messages in the future.
Same thing with the rare good message that SpamSieve thinks is spam. If I review the Spam folder on my MacBook Air, and see a good messages, I just move it to the “TrainGood” IMAP folder, and SpamSieve at home will eventually see it and train itself accordingly.
I’m really happy with this setup, and excited about the discovery that I can again manage my own email, and enjoy the server-side filtering benefits I had with services like iCloud and Gmail. And what’s obviously cool, is that I can train the spam filter from any device!