By Gary Bolles  |  Posted 2003-12-02 Print this article Print

Measure the value of your antispam efforts to be sure that you wont be second-guessed on the cost involved.

How much is spam costing your company? Poll users for their spam-management time estimates, then multiply by the average wage of your employees. Dont forget to include the time spent by your mail administrator, and for spam-related help desk calls.

Next, determine what your companys standard volume of unwanted e-mail looks like. "That gives you a baseline so that now you can say to upper-level management, Heres where we were, and heres where we got to," after putting the antispam plan into action, says Kyoceras Shields. Make sure you know the cost of processing and storing messages at your current volume levels.

Symantec CTO Rob Clyde also suggests looking at how many IT projects have been delayed or postponed because of security concerns such as spam and viruses. Systems that monitor e-mail content can help avoid "hostile workplace" and related lawsuits, says Kurt Williams, vice president and CIO of Summit Electric Supply Corp. Inc., so factor the avoidance of such risk into your equations.

But the best ROI will come from looking at Internet risk management holistically, including spam, viruses and security breaches such as distributed denial of service campaigns. "On the network service side, spam doesnt feel a whole lot different than DDoS attacks," says CSX Technologys Luman. She should know: She says her company fends off 3.5 million such attacks every month.

Of course, letting through, say, a single nasty virus has vastly greater implications than letting through one spam message. Still, the lines begin to blur when spam reaches overwhelming volumes, and when marketers apparently use spam and virus characteristics to send still more spam, as with the SoBig worm. "The way in which companies think about e-mail has to fundamentally change," urges Gary Steele, CEO of vendor Proofpoint Inc.

Once in place, however, users are generally positive about antispam efforts. "Our system has already paid for itself in the eight months that Ive had it," says Darryl Killingsworth, CIO for defense contractor Manufacturing Technology Inc., based in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. "Its very rare in the IT arena where you get praise from your end users for what you do." And its especially gratifying when the right messages continue to get through. "As far as we know, we have not had a false positive," says Baptist Health Cares Boggess of the IronMail server protection from CipherTrust. "Everything people needed to get, we have received."

Just dont think the spam problem will go away tomorrow. "Its actually technology itself thats driving the opportunity for more attacks, and more widespread attacks," says Symantecs Clyde. "It has in it the seeds of tomorrows problems. As we continue to have more connectivity, the problems are going to increase. Thats just a fact of life." New technologies such as message-oriented Web services, for example, will only increase the security risk if they arent built carefully.

But antispam measures also will continue to improve, though nobody is suggesting that spam can be completely stopped. Instead, the CIOs goal should be to reduce the amount reaching users desktops to a reasonable level, making it as manageable as possible. "Theres no silver bullet in spam, and I dont think anybody should be thinking there is," says Arlington Countys Jordan. "Theres no cure."

Ask Your Hr Department:
  • How much time are users spending on spam?
    Ask Your Finance Department:
  • Can we calculate the cost of a single lost e-mail message?
    Ask Your CTO:
  • Where are we potentially creating new insecurities in our messaging infrastructure?

    Gary Bolles Gary A. Bolles is the Editorial Director for Ziff Davis Media's Custom Conference Group. He is responsible for directing the group's editorial efforts, ensuring the quality of the content it delivers, and moderating and speaking at client events. A frequent lecturer and keynote speaker on a variety of technology topics, he has hosted more than 50 events in the past year alone.

    Bolles was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Interactive Week, developing its unique vision, the founding editorial director of Sm@rt Reseller magazine, creating the publication from initial research, and the founding Editorial Director of Yahoo! Internet Life, managing its successful launch. Bolles was also the Editor-in-Chief of Network Computing Magazine, and for one year was the host of 'Working the Web' for TechTV, covering a wide variety of technology-related topics. Until recently, he was a contributing editor to CIO Insight, writing on a broad range of technology subjects, and assisting in the coordination of the publication's research efforts.

    Bolles is the former Chief Operating Officer of Evolve Software, Inc., and the former VP of Marketing for Network Products Corporation. He has served as a marketing consultant to a variety of organizations, and has advised a number of software startup companies in arenas such as online marketing and data mining.

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