Junk mail costs lives

Very expensive too

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Spam costs UK businesses an estimated £470 per employee per year according to a email security firm MessageLabs.

A survey of 200 UK customers shows that 28 per cent of all email is currently described as 'useless' by employees (because it either contains a virus, a pornographic image or spam). This chimes closely with a recent Gartner survey, which suggests that 34 per cent of email received within the workplace is unwanted.

MessageLabs estimates that an employee on an average salary of £25K, who spends around 10 minutes per day whittling out spam from their email inbox will cost a company £2 per day. For a company with 100 employees, this amounts to £47,000 per year. (For our take on these assumptions scroll down the page.)

Sixty two per cent of companies surveyed by MessageLabs said they are now reviewing their anti-spam policy, as they become more aware of the negative impact that unwanted email has on their businesses. Unwanted email (anything from discounted impotency cures to get-rich-quick schemes) use up valuable bandwidth - clogging servers, as well as wasting human resources.

Mark Sumnner, chief technology officer of MessageLabs, said that spam has moved beyond being merely a nuisance or inconvenience as volumes have risen and mass mailers have taken to using tricks that attempt to foil blocking techniques.

Users have traditionally addressed the problem by bolting in interfaces to blacklists on messaging servers, filtering for spam using content security tools such as MIMESweeper or by developing in-house aps.

Sumnner argues the problem is best tackled before it hits a user's network boundary by filtering out spam on the Internet. MessageLabs' SkyScan AS (anti-spam) service, can achieve economies of scale in doing this and will be constantly developed, he added.

SkyScan AS allows MessageLabs' customer to set up their own filtering criteria by selecting blacklists and whitelists based on IP address or domain. Public blacklists of known spammers (ORBZ or MAPS) are also checked by the SkyScan AS service, and customers can select whether or not to use these lists through their interface with the service.

When a spam email is detected, the customer can decide whether they want it to be tagged, redirected to a specific email address or deleted.

Prices for the SkyScan AS service begin at 45p per user / per month. The service, like MessageLabs' porn filtering service, is offered as an optional extra to the firm's core virus filtering service, prices for which begin at £1.50 per user / per month. ®

Drew Cullen writes Junk email is a big problem, and MessageLabs produces a useful service- but its cost assumptions are simply wrong.

Here is something we first published in 1998, which explains why.

Junk email, junk survey

Spam - junk email - costs UK and Irish businesses £5 billion a year, according to Novell.

Spam could seriously impede the Internet's progress, our second favourite NOS vendor claims. Luckily, the solution is at hand. It's called GroupWise, produced by you know who.

Surveys are a time-honoured PR tactic for getting coverage in hard-to-reach publications. Novell plays this game well. The company commissions surveys related to its products and it gets plenty coverage in the UK nationals.

But this time around, the world's second biggest NOS vendor has overreached itself.

Here are its assumptions, gleaned from a survey of 800-odd corporate employees.

"Seventy five percent of the people surveyed receive up to five spam E mails a day, with a further 16 percent receiving between six and 25 spam E mails a day. In dealing with these E mails, 75 percent said they wasted up to 15 minutes a day reading, deleting, filing or responding to spam and an amazing 15 per cent wasted an hour doing the same," Novell claims.

"Taking the working population as a whole, this means that the amount of time being wasted dealing with spam E mails each year in the UK equates to over 5.1 billion pounds."

These conclusions are specious. Novell would have us think that people are stopped from doing productive work by sorting out their email.

And this - as anyone who has ever worked in corporate Britain knows - is simply not true. (How many people work here? About half of them.) People who are not spending time checking out their email are not necessarily working.

They are just as likely to be: doing the coffee round; paying their utility bills; flirting with or sexually harassing other staff, smoking on the corner outside their workplace; applying for other jobs; calling in sick while they interview for other jobs; complaining about their crap company car; grouching about their bosses; moaning about the daily commute, about house prices, about their unreliable nannies; gossiping about football, about TV soaps; droning on - still - about Princess Diana (was she murdered - or was she just really, really stupid).

Why doesn't Novell put a price tag on how much talking about Diana is costing UK and Irish businesses? Thought not. ®

Related Stories

UK govt wants to decide own spam policy
EU says 'oui' to spam
MessageLabs launches email porn filtering service
Internet will become 'unusable' by 2008
SirCam haunts dim-witted users
Anti-spammers compared to terrorists
ORBS now split into three
MAPS to start charging for anti-spam list

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