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IronPort Parts With Bonded Sender

E-mail security vendor IronPort Systems sold control of its popular whitelist program to e-mail performance management company Return Path, officials announced Tuesday.

As part of a long-term partnership struck a few days ago, Return Path will manage the operations, marketing and development of the Bonded Sender program, while IronPort will continue to provide back-end infrastructure support. Three IronPort employees were also transferred to Return Path.

In return, San Bruno, Calif.-based IronPort receives an undetermined shareholder stake in the company and Scott Weiss, IronPort founder and CEO, will take a seat on Return Path's board of directors.

New York-based Return Path added the Bonded Sender program to its portfolio of e-mail performance management offerings for an undisclosed amount, according to Matt Blumberg, Return Path chairman and CEO.

Return Path specializes in e-mail services for consumers and businesses. For consumers, the company offers e-mail forwarding and change of address services; its business services cater to increasing the effectiveness of e-mail marketing campaigns.

Lumberg expects the buy to boost e-mail deliverability rates for the company's e-mail marketer customer base, which faces challenges in today's spam environment. He said even the best e-mail marketing companies using double opt-in and full permission-based lists run into 20 percent to 25 percent rejection rates from e-mail gateways.

"[Bonded Sender] gives our customers one more thing to use to help get their mail into the inbox," he said.

The Bonded Sender program is a twist on the conventional whitelist, which is a group of accredited IP addresses that are allowed to pass unhindered through a corporate or ISP e-mail gateway.

When a company joins the program, it puts up a bond towards their good behavior, and if a certain amount of complaints come in during the course of a month, they're fined. Independent program oversight and dispute resolution comes from non-profit organization TRUSTe.

E-mail marketers already participating in the program include Hallmark, About.com, Match.com, TheMotleyFool.com and Google. The program is used on the receiving end by e-mail providers Microsoft and AOL , as well as more than 35,000 other networks for an aggregate total of 250 million e-mail inboxes.

Tom Gillis, IronPort senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said the new arrangement allows the company to focus on its business of hardware-based e-mail security. Partnering with Return Path, he said, takes Bonded Sender in a new direction that incorporates more of the e-mail community.

"Return Path really adds a new dimension to the program in terms of their focus on the marketers as opposed to just the IT guys and helping companies understand a more holistic view of how they use e-mail to communicate with customers effectively," he said. "Whereas, at IronPort that's a question that we're not really good at dealing with, we tend to deal with the data flow -- bits moving in and out and how you move those bits most effectively."

Gillis said IronPort officials touched base with many of the major Bonded Sender users before making the final decision to hand control over to the e-mail management company. The e-mail industry community is a small one, he said, and those they contacted already knew about Return Path and its reputation.