Spam Bashing: The 98 Percent Solution
by Drew Robb
Published March 2005; Posted September 2005




The ratio of spam to legitimate email continued to climb in 2004. Email security vendors MX Logic of Denver and FrontBridge Technologies of Marina Del Rey, CA, reported levels of 86.88 and 88 percent spam respectively, for their managed service clients, on December 31, 2004—one year after the enactment of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act.


Some customers notice even higher levels. “We get about 60,000 emails a week, more if we do a trade or tickets go on sale,” said David Curry, director of information services for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. “On some of our accounts, 90 to 95 percent of the emails were spam, and it took a long time to go through and delete those emails.”


This is not to say that all is lost. Far from it. Anti-spam software, appliances and services continue to improve their ability to identify unwanted messages. So even if the volume of spam continues to rise, less of it is hitting user inboxes.


A survey published in 2004 by The Radicati Group of Palo Alto, CA showed that a 10,000-user organization could cut its annual spam-related productivity losses from $30 million to less than $5 million by deploying email filtering technology, in the process cutting spam’s share of email traffic from 48 to 13 percent.


According to Gartner’s Ant Allan, “The most effective controls are technology controls. Even the crudest can get rid of the majority of spam coming into the organization, and the best of them can do in the high 90 [percents].”


There is no simple solution to eliminating spam, but the fight is worthwhile. Reclaiming infrastructure availability is an easily measurable result. A less quantifiable benefit is the reclaiming, not only of employee time, but also of attention, concentration and peace of mind. Every piece of spam, even if it only takes a few seconds to scan the header and delete, distracts an employee from the work at hand and makes them think about something else.


Constant disruptions, even if brief, can kill productivity. We have doors, receptionists and security guards so salesmen can’t just walk in and interrupt employees. We have caller ID, “no-call” lists, voice mail and message screening to reduce unwanted phone calls. Now it is time to do the same for email.



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About the author:

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering.


This article is reproduced by special arrangement with our partner, Business Communications Review.


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