With increasing numbers of dancing babies, holiday greeting cards, and space games whizzing through cyberspace as E-mail attachments, servers across the country are being brought to their knees. What's a small company to do?

One solution is to take advantage of an E-mail filtering service like MailZone, from Allegro (937-264-7000; $30 per month minimum for 30 users) or E-mail filtering software like CommandView Message Inspector, from Elron Software (800-767-6683; $1,195 for a 25-user license).

That's what Automated Office Solutions Inc., in Evansville, Ind., did. Last summer frivolous files that took hours for the server to download were blocking E-mail from customers at the $4 million reseller of hardware and software. Says president Bob Parsons, "We have customers in places like Germany and Haiti that we usually talk to only by E-mail. That didn't make us look too good."

A friend referred AOS service manager Joseph Lattner to MailZone. Simply put, MailZone casts a net in cyberspace to catch unwieldy attachments before they can drag a server down. On MailZone's Web site, clients customize the service according to what their system can handle. Lattner set up the service so that all AOS-bound E-mails that were two megs or more would be intercepted and stored on the MailZone server. The massive missives would then be delivered to AOS nightly at 11, when the company's server would have the downtime to process them.

Whenever MailZone blocks something, Lattner, the addressee, and the sender all receive an E-mail alert. In addition, Lattner keeps an eye on E-mail traffic in real time at MailZone's Web site, and he can easily release any blocked messages that are work related. Allegro also regularly E-mails Lattner spreadsheets that detail the type and size of all attachments.

CGA Investment Management Inc., a $4 million financial-advisory firm in New York City, chose the software route and beta-tested the E-mail filtering product Message Inspector. Message Inspector is MailZone in shrink-wrap: it can deflect attachments based on size and file type; it sends out E-mail alerts to administrators and recipients about virtual contraband; and it generates regular status reports. An additional feature is its ability to red-flag E-mail tainted with profane or sexual language.

As for mega-attachments, Ross Aseron, the company's lone technical-support employee, was able to control their entering or exiting the network for the few weeks he beta-tested Message Inspector. But as luck would have it, soon after he returned the software, one employee decided to send 14 friends a 1.5MB video file. It took Aseron three hours to clean the messages out of the system.