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Over a third of small businesses are suffering significant financial losses due to unsolicited emails, faxes and computer viruses.

A survey by Bank of Scotland (BoS) found that 37 per cent of UK small firms were being badly hit in the pocket by spam and viruses, such as the SoBig outbreak which hit many businesses earlier this year.

The study found that the while the cost of minor data losses and firewalls is less than £1,000 a year for two-thirds of small firms, a full-scale virus attack can be terminal for entrepreneurs on tight budgets.

For one in fifty businesses polled, the cost of computer viruses was over £10,000 per year. A further 40 per cent of bosses claimed that junk email significantly added to their costs, with one in ten losing an estimated £10,000 year through lost productivity and the cost of filtering systems.

Multiple unwanted faxes are also a headache for small firms, with over half of those surveyed claiming that the cost of receiving and handling junk faxes was a significant problem.

Firms in London were most concerned about the impact of computer viruses, while Newcastle businesses were most likely to suffer from a high volume of spam.

The research suggests that anti-spam laws, introduced by the government last year, have done little to ease business concerns over the impact of junk email on productivity and profits.

Although individuals are now banned from sending emails and other communication to users without prior consent, the laws only apply in the UK and has done little to stem the flood of junk from the USA.

Computer viruses continue to pose a serious threat to small firms, who often do not have the resources to properly protect their IT systems or recover lost data.

Eddie Morrison, of BoS, said that computer viruses are clearly one of the scourges of our business age.

“The cost of protecting systems with ever more advanced firewalls can be expensive in itself but compare to that the devastation of losing important files to a virus.

“It has also become increasingly easy for small firms to be bombarded with multiple unsolicited emails and faxes for advertising and other purposes.

“Though less often seen as a direct threat, it can generate significant costs to the unsuspecting recipient.

“Whilst unwanted junk mail merely accounts for space in corporate wastepaper baskets, the irony of spam emails and faxes is that it’s the recipient who must pick up the bill for the administration and paper costs rather than the sender,” he said.

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