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  1. #1
    3 Star Lounger
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    Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2000/2003)

    Our IS department has made an executive decision to disable external Out of Office messages because of their potential to validate email addresses for spammers. I'm not sure how I feel about this, as I can understand both the technical reason why you would want to do that, but I also understand the users' pain. Short of picking up the phone and calling people, does anyone have an alternative to the OOO assistant that they recommend. Some automized way to tell external clients/senders, etc., that you are away from your desk for whatever amount of time. I can't think of anything, and I'm not holding my breath that you guys will have any solutions, but thought I'd ask the brain trust before reporting back that They want something that's not possible.

  2. #2
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2000/2003)

    You could create a rule in the Rules Wizard. However, the Out Of Office rule sends only one reply back to each sender, while a genreal rule will send a reply to each received message.

  3. #3
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2000/2003)

    But wouldn't a rule in Rules Wizard effectively do the same thing as the OOO Assistant? Wouldn't it also send a reply to everyone, including spammers, and basically confirm the email address as valid?

    Sat.

  4. #4
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2000/2003)

    If mail gets through the spam filter, yes.

  5. #5
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2000/2003)

    I think that our IS is looking at this from the perspective of trying to cut down the amount of spam coming into our system. They have a mail filter in place that should, in theory, stop most of the spam. They just don't want the amount of spam to increase, and they see the OOO assistant as a potential cause for spam increase. And I assume that creating a rule would just do the same thing, so that's probably not an alternative (although it would allow the user to get around the "no OOO messages" rule on the mail filter).

    I've read a little about this on other sites and it appears that some other companies are doing this too - the whole "disable external OOO messages" thing. As I mentioned, I'm not sure what my feelings on it are. I like the OOO assistant, and think that it can be a useful tool as long as people aren't stupid and don't leave messages like "I'm out of town for two weeks and my dog is at the kennel, feel free to come over and watch TV on our new surround sound system". Hate that spammers (little @#%#$!s) are the cause for not being able to use a good tool.

  6. #6
    Plutonium Lounger
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2000/2003)

    It's not just spam as a cause of nuisance - it could also be used as a means to find out where it's safe to burgle: "I'm out of town for two weeks and my dog is at the kennel, feel free to come over and steal our TV and our new surround sound system".

  7. #7
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2000/2003)

    Yeah - that was kinda my point. And I've seen some dumb OOO messages in my time.

  8. #8
    Plutonium Lounger Leif's Avatar
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2

    I have taken the view that as most SPAM has a forged address, any risk with OOOs is acceptable (although I have disabled Delivery Notification).

    You could possibly create a rule than only responded if certain domains or names appeared in the sender's address, which may cover most of your incoming mail.

    An alternative way to think about it is this:
    Your IS is unable to prevent all SPAM from getting through and therefore you are obliged to manually evaluate each incoming message and respond as necessary for the good of your employer. If they prohibit the use of OOOs, you should be entitled to pass on that obligation for the duration of your absence, and be allowed to forward all incoming mail to your IS to personally deal with, and respond to appropriately!

  9. #9
    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2

    I don't use the Out of Office Assistant, but not because of spammers: what spammer uses a valid reply address any more? what spammer doesn't know your address is good from the fact that the server accepted the message in the first place? what spammer cares about the quality of the list so long as it is cheaper to send a billion messages than spend even 1 hour deleting inactive ones?

    No, I don't use the OoOA because my schedule is my business, I can check on messages and reply using my Treo while I'm in "PCS" range, and I have a staff who monitors incoming mail when I'm inaccessible.

    Also, your company should strongly consider a managed (outsourced) filtering solution such as Postini or Brightmail. As a small business, we obtained Postini through a reseller at a very reasonable price. For me the compelling arguments were: (1) no IT resources required once you turn it on, other than to add new users; (2) more than 80% reduction in messages coming through our internet connection (in bytes, the reduction is not as impressive, because valid messages tend to be much larger than junk messages); (3) self-service message retrieval for users (but they go to a web site rather than a folder on the Exchange server); (4) "second source" antivirus protection (but McAfee is slightly prone to false positives, so users should at least check the quarantine now and then); and (5) it really works!

    Now, of course, direct email marketers regularly develop devious new ways to circumvent Postini, but I still think this is the best approach. There are a couple of drawbacks, in particular if a valid message is quarantined, when you instruct Postini to deliver it the Received date/time will be the current date/time rather than the original time it was received by Postini. (If you want to know, that information is in a special field in the message headers.) Also, the quarantine can become painfully large if you do not use "Blatant Spam Blocking" to reject the spammiest messages. (I can explain that more if people are interested.)

  10. #10
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2

    If your IT department has decided to block OOO messages, they have probably disabled "Automatic Replies to the Internet". The latter is actually much more important, because of the portential to create 'mail storms', where a mail comes in, and generates an automatic reply, and say that the target mailbox is disabled or out of disk space and the that generates a return message, which gets another auto-reply, and so on until Exchange's information store fills up and shuts down. Not good.

    Anway, on the Excahnge mailing list that I read, there are 3 main reasons to disallow OOO.

    1. It tells spammers who are paying attention that they have a real email address.

    2. It tells goblins that know one is watching your house, or your comptuer account for any unusual activity

    3. It tells customers trying to contact to go pound sand. No one is going to read their message.

    The first two reasons are somewhat arguable. The third seems to be the real issue.

    IMO as a postmaster, I think there is a behavorial solution to this problem. Before leaving, take the time to send a message the people that are most likely to contact you via email and let them know who won't be available. When you are gone, use the "delegate" functions of Outlook to have someone check your office mail and pick up on any time-sensitive items.

  11. #11
    Plutonium Lounger Leif's Avatar
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    Re: Out of Office Assistant alternative (Outlook 2

    I easily get round #3 by using my OOO to give alternate (non-machine-readable) recipients to contact!

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