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Study Says Anti-Spam Efforts Yield Rapid Returns

IDC says a company with 5,000 users can save $783,000 annually by implementing an anti-spam system.

A study by research firm IDC should prompt smiles among anti-spam vendors. The report, titled "The True Cost Of Spam And Value Of Anti-Spam Solutions," notes that spam comprised 32% of all E-mail messages last year, double the percentage in 2001.

IDC's 32% figure is significantly lower than spam estimates put forward by anti-spam vendors such as Brightmail Inc., which saw 63% of E-mail traversing the Internet as spam in March. Mark Levitt, research VP for collaborative computing at IDC, says his firm measured all E-mail among respondents, including internal corporate messages, which resulted in a reduced spam count.

But IDC goes beyond highlighting the need for a solution; it finds that anti-spam products yield rapid positive return on investment. In an average company with 5,000 E-mail users, implementing an anti-spam system results in an annual savings of $783,000 and reduces the amount of time spent on E-mail per user by 50%. Of course, anti-spam vendors have been saying as much for years. At the Web site of Ironport Systems Inc., for example, there's a convenient ROI calculator, in case you want to run the numbers yourself.

According to Levitt, 70% of companies already have anti-spam technology in place. While observing that companies without anti-spam tools risk being left behind, he notes that some 7% of companies surveyed--generally those without significant exposure to the Internet-don't expect to implement spam blocking in the foreseeable future.

The study also notes pessimism among IT executives about the government's ability to deal with spam. Three-quarters of the 1,030 IT executives surveyed believe spam will get worse over the next two years, a finding the study correlates with a recent jump in anti-spam investment.

But if the supposed financial benefits of spam blocking aren't argument enough, it's worth considering the possible financial risks of doing nothing. Bart Lazar, a partner at international law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, says the law already requires companies to make an adequate effort to secure financial and medical data, as well as data from the European Union. He expects that sooner or later a company will be held liable if spam is the cause of a security breach, a real possibility given that viruses piggyback on E-mail messages.

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