E-mail authentication myths

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E-mail authentication has plenty of industry backing. For example, the Direct Marketing Association in October announced it would require all members to use the technology, while Microsoft Corp. implemented Sender ID in its Hotmail service and Yahoo! added its own authentication standard, DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), to its e-mail service.

Still, 30% of all Fortune 100 companies haven’t implemented authentication, according to the Email Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC). Less than half of the general business population is using any form of authentication, according to e-mail service provider Skylist. The reason, said Joshua Baer, CEO, is that the same “silly” rumors are still circulating, keeping marketers from using authentication. Here are a few of these myths.

Myth No. 1: Authentication was designed as an anti-spam solution and it doesn’t work. Not true, Baer said. “Authentication is an integral piece for fighting the spam problem, but not the solution on its own,” he said. Doing authentication won’t stop spam, he said, but it will help ISPs and customers identify some of the bad stuff out there.

Myth No. 2: Complying with standards is too difficult. There are only two standards out there right now—the aforementioned Sender ID and DKIM. Each does have its own process, but as long as you can figure out where your e-mail server is, it’s pretty simple to set up. The complexity comes in when you have thousands of servers, Baer said. “Authentication is actually more difficult for a massive company,” he said.

Myth No. 3: Authentication costs too much. The majority of e-mail service providers support one or both of the authentication technologies, and most will implement them for you at no cost. In addition, e-mail server software developers are building in support for the technology, Baer said. “Over the next year it’s going to be as easy as flipping a switch to turn on authentication,” he said. “If your ESP put out a release saying they support authentication, you just have to ask for it.”

Myth No. 4: I don’t know which technology to choose. Companies should comply with and use both technologies because they play up to different weaknesses in the e-mail processing process. Once they are set up, it doesn’t take much effort to keep up with the technology. “Hotmail is checking Sender ID and Yahoo! is checking DomainKeys. If you don’t have both right now, it could be affecting your delivery. They are becoming the default,” Baer said. “It will make a difference at half of the places you’re sending marketing messages to.”

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