Spam will cost the world $50 billion in lost productivity and other expenses this year, according to a new report issued by Ferris Research. More than a third of that, or $17 billion, will be wasted by U.S. companies.
But the damage could be a lot worse, says Richi Jennings, one of the Ferris analysts who authored the report. "We haven't seen as much of a spike in costs as in spam volume because more organizations are putting in better anti-spam technology," he says. Since 2003, spam volume hitting U.S. companies has jumped fivefold, but costs haven't even doubled, Jennings says. Still, revenue for anti-spam software and hosted services will reach $1.7 billion by 2008, research firm IDC predicted last week.
With so much money at stake, it's easy for companies to make a business case for anti-spam technology, particularly in places where labor costs are higher and spam volumes larger. "For developed countries, deploying competent spam-filtering software makes good business sense," Jennings says. In the United States, spam's annual per-mailbox cost to businesses is $170. In Germany, it jumps to $241 based on Germany's higher labor costs, fewer workdays, and high health-care and pension costs borne by companies.
Not every filtering method is economically equal, Jennings says. Server-based filtering is considerably cheaper than desktop-based anti-spam systems; the former typically costs $132 per year per user, while the latter runs $217. "There are very few scenarios where we would recommend desktop filtering," he says. "Any time an IT department has to roll out software to everyone's desktop, you're talking serious money."