By David McGuire washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, June 7, 2004; 8:27 AM
Spam will cost large companies nearly $2,000 per employee in lost productivity this year, despite improving technology designed to block the ever-growing volume of unsolicited commercial messages aimed at workers' e-mail accounts, according to a new report.
Workers at some of the country's biggest corporations report that they spend nearly 15 minutes every day sifting through an average of 29 unsolicited e-mail messages, dramatically higher than the seven minutes they spent sorting through spam in 2003. The findings are based on a survey of workers at Fortune 500 companies conducted by Wellesley, Mass.-based Nucleus Research Inc.
Based on the amount of time workers spend on weeding out spam, Nucleus estimated that companies will lose $1,934 for every employee in 2004, compared to $874 in 2003, said Shruti Yadav, the report's author.
Nucleus conducted telephone interviews with "representative employees" from Fortune 500 firms in July 2003 and May 2004. Employees at 117 companies were interviewed in the 2003 study; Nucleus called the same group of employees in 2004, reaching 82 people included in the original sample.
"We found the effectiveness of spam filters and other anti-spam technologies was being rendered ineffective by the growing volume of mail," Yadav said.
"Spam" currently accounts for more than 70 percent of total e-mail volume worldwide, according to anti-spam filtering company Postini Inc. E-mail filtering software is catching more unwanted messages, but the massive increase in the amount of spam on the Internet means that people will continue to receive more of it, Yadav said. Companies that used filters received about 20 percent less spam than companies that did not, according to the study. That compares to 26 percent less in 2003.
Executives for several large companies in the Washington area said they see more spam hitting their systems but are turning away most of it.
Bethesda, Md.-based hotel and hospitality services firm Marriott International saw an immediate decrease in spam after installing anti-spam software last June, said Dave Ruby, senior vice president of information resources.
In June 2003, Marriott, which has 128,000 employees, blocked nearly half of the 6.8 million e-mail messages it received after installing the software. In May 2004, the company fielded 22.2 million inbound messages and blocked 14.5 million. Ruby declined to say what kind of software the company uses.
Washington, D.C.-based mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae, which has 5,000 employees, uses systems that check incoming e-mail for viruses, suspicious text messages and questionable sender addresses, said Brian Cobb, vice president of enterprise systems management. He said that spam does not affect worker productivity.