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The volume of spam received by business has doubled over the last two years and it's going to get worse.

Analysts IDC reckons that spam represented 32 per cent of all email sent on an average day in North America in 2003, doubling from 2001. That figure is less than the 50 per cent or more junk mail statistic commonly cited by email-filtering firms like MessageLabs and Brightmail but it still represents a serious problem.

The effect of spam - measured in clogged inboxes, lost worker productivity and wasted IT resources - is measured in millions of dollars annually for larger organisations. Adding to this, three-quarters of the IT executives responding to an IDC survey feel the spam tsunami will only get worse over the next two years.

This projected growth has fuelled investment in anti-spam software and services over the last year, IDC reports. So, does anti-spam technology justify the hype?

To assess the return in investment from deploying anti-spam technology, IDC developed figures for a typical firm of 5,000 workers. Without any anti-spam protection, IDC estimates that each worker would spend an average of 10 minutes a day dealing with spam. Over a year this would set back a company $4.1m. By deploying anti-spam technology the amount of time a worker spend dealing with junk mail is reduced to five minutes. Taking out licensing costs, this still leaves our 5,000 worker company $783,000 better off, at least in theory.

IDC surveyed 1,000 IT managers representing organizations of various sizes and industries in North America in developing its return on investment calculations. It also interviewed 30 senior IT executives representing a range of vertical industries in greater detail.

IDC details its findings in a study, The True Cost of SPAM and Value of Anti-SPAM Solutions, published yesterday. ®

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