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Spam is a pricey pest

Most admins will tell you that spam is a big problem. Now Radicati Group has figured out what spam is really costing you.

While spam wastes workers' time, the larger issue for businesses should be the way it taxes messaging systems and eats into IT budgets, according to one researcher.

Sara Radicati, president and CEO of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Radicati Group, said spam accounts for 24% of corporate mailbox traffic, and she expects by 2007 nearly half of all incoming e-mail in the office will be spam.

"The real cost is to your infrastructure," Radicati said. "Twenty-four percent of the traffic on the network is unnecessary. You bought 24% more equipment than you need to have."

Spam by the numbers
  • $30 billion -- What spam is costing businesses this year in infrastructure expenses
  • $113 billion -- What spam will cost businesses worldwide by 2007
  • 52% -- Number of businesses who say reducing spam is a key messaging priority

Source: Radicati Group

Radicati also said spam forces businesses to hire more administrators, who spend more time maintaining messaging and collaboration servers that are weighed down by the added traffic.

The bottom line: Radicati Group estimates that an organization with 10,000 employees spends $71.91 per mailbox per year because of spam.

Radicati called anti-spam enhancements from the leading messaging vendors, including Lotus' new server-side spam controls in ND6, "a teeny drop in the bucket." Instead, she expects huge growth for the anti-spam software industry, led by vendors such as Brightmail, Clearswift and Network Associates.

Radicati forecasts the anti-spam space -- with $653 million in projected 2003 revenues -- will mirror the rise of the anti-virus market and be worth $2.3 billion by 2007. She estimates that fewer than one in 10 large organizations has installed anti-spam software. They're largely scared off, she said, by "the risk of false positives" -- the possibility that software will mistake an important e-mail for spam.

Two-thirds of the respondents in a recent, unscientific poll said they have third-party tools in place to combat spam.

John Gollner, vice president of technology at Beacon Electronic Associates Inc. in Atlanta, said his 60 users get as many as 2,000 unwanted e-mails each day. The spam deluge caused him to invest in software from in San Mateo, Calif. Now, messages flagged as spam are held in a separate mailbox for several days before being deleted, in case one was errantly flagged.

"I'm very thankful we found a good solution," Gollner said. "I pray every day that it never stops working. I truly don't know how we could function without the ability to keep spam out of our corporate system."

It doesn't take a researcher to tell that unwanted e-mail has surged of late, fueled by marketers' reliance on e-mail campaigns, because of their relative low cost and a need to avoid "snail" mail after the recent Anthrax scare.

The government has attempted to fight spam with stiff penalties, including a Commonwealth of Virginia law that makes sending certain types of spam a felony punishable by jail time.

Radicati said businesses shouldn't rely on laws that are "not enforceable for the most part." Instead, she recommends e-mail administrators slay spam on two fronts: by implementing anti-spam products and educating users about careful Web behavior.

Radicati's findings are based on a research for a study due out next month.


Join on May 12 at noon ET for a live webcast on managing spam in the enterprise. You'll have a chance to pose questions to an analyst and get free, real-time advice on spam. Pre-register today.

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