Block Spam! Save Millions! Feel Better!

If ever a problem seemed designed to showcase the value of electronic security to an organization, that problem is spam. Unsolicited e-mail saps productivity and bandwidth, carries viruses, and can offend workers by its often-salacious nature. Considering the high return-on-investment numbers cited by most e-mail analysts, it seems the only thing technology managers need to worry about is going hog wild on spam spending.

Turns out even that’s not a big threat. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point that we’re spending too much on anti-spam,” says Mark Levitt, an analyst at IDC, which predicts anti-spam spending will rise from $236 million in 2002 to $1.1 billion in 2007. “For the most part,” he says, “we’re not spending enough.”

Sara Radicati, president of messaging-analyst firm the Radicati Group, says that, globally, spam cost businesses about $20.5 billion in lost time and technology resources last year, and might cost as much as $198 billion by 2007.

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Fortunately, anti-spam filtering products can bring that cost down radically. Consider Joshua Elicio, director of information security and privacy at a New Mexico hospital, who was able to put off a $35,000 upgrade to his network after installing anti-spam products that cost about $20,000 per year. The filters, plus a program designed to teach workers how to avoid exposure to spammers, has reduced spam enough to more than pay for both efforts every year, Elicio says.

Cost estimates vary, but this worksheet (“Adding Up the Costs of Spam and a Spam Filter”) may help you ballpark yours.