IDC: Expect Spam Problem to Worsen

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The volume of spam traffic in North America doubled from 2001 to 2003, and tech executives expect it to worsen, according to researcher IDC.

The Framingham, MA, firm estimates that spam represented one-third of all e-mail traffic last year. Three-quarters of information technology executives polled said the problem would only worsen in the next two years.

Executives reported accelerated spending on spam-fighting technology in response to the increased spam volume and pessimism that legal measures like the CAN-SPAM Act will have any effect, a survey released by IDC yesterday found. The poll questioned 1,000 IT managers and 30 senior executives from large companies.

"Given the fact that spammers continue to be very effective at creating spam that evades detection, we're still in the early stages of the battle," said Mark Levitt, a research vice president at IDC.

IDC estimates that spam costs a firm with 5,000 employees $4.1 million in wasted productivity and IT support. The researcher thinks such firms can cut those costs more than 80 percent by deploying an anti-spam solution.

The survey found that 70 percent of businesses used an outside anti-spam provider, with the majority implemented just in the past year, Levitt said.

The Radicati Group projects the market for spam-fighting technology will reach $979 million this year, thanks to a 50 percent rise in demand over the past 12 months. By 2008, the researcher forecasts, it will exceed $1.7 billion.

The spending has lifted the businesses of anti-spam technology providers like Brightmail. The San Francisco company last month filed for an initial public offering that could raise $68 million. According to its Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Brightmail made $1.2 million on $26 million in sales in the year ended Jan. 31.

The IDC study did not tally the total cost to businesses. An earlier study by Ferris Research pegged spam's cost to U.S. businesses in 2003 at $10 billion to $13 billion, due to lost productivity, IT resources and help desk costs.

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