Security

Controlling spam may reduce clients' energy costs

Clients are likely aware that spam can lead to loss of productivity, but they might not know that it may result in them paying more for energy. Here are five ways to help clients reduce spam.

 According to analyst Richi Jennings, "Spammers dumped 60 trillion messages onto the Internet in 2008." Not only is that a lot of spam, but it's also a tremendous waste of energy. The process of sifting through all their email, deleting spam, and searching for legitimate messages, wastes 33 billion kilo watt-hours (KWh) according to ICF International, a global consulting firm.

Everybody wants to fight annoying spam, but getting users to actively engage in preventing spam isn't an easy task; they just don't want to bother with reporting spam. These statistics might be an incentive. Once clients realize they can avoid spam and reduce their energy costs, they might be more willing to put policies in place that could put a dent in their spam.

According to ICF's report, "spam filtering can reduce the energy wasted by up to 75 percent, or the global equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road...." Researchers gave each spam message a carbon footprint of 0.3 grams of CO2, the equivalent of driving a car one meter, to calculate that statistic. According to Jennings, that equates to the amount of electricity consumed by 2.4 million homes in the United States.

The report also claims that a company can save as much as 20% on their energy budget by employing effective spam filters. That's an ambitious claim, but the incentive is there. If a client has an excessive amount of email traffic, they stand to reduce energy costs by reducing the amount of spam that reaches their inbox.

The sad truth is that spam exists because it works. About one third of consumers admit to responding to a message they thought was spam, according to a survey by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG). The survey also found that about 21% of consumers do nothing to avoid spam; when they receive spam, almost all of those surveyed said they delete it; only a few report it to their company's administrator, their ISP, or their email provider. That's part of the problem, and it's understandable. According to MAAWG, as much as 85% to 90% of incoming messages are "abusive" -- who has time to report all those messages?

Five ways you can help your clients reduce spam, include the following:

  • Employ excessive spam filtering: Customize third-party software to deploy powerful filtering.
  • Discourage clients from installing their own spam filters: To most clients, this means enabling a mail client's built-in spam filter, and you know that's not enough for clients with busy email systems.
  • Train users to report spam: Consumers must become activists on the subject. It's up to all of us to eliminate spam.
  • Avoid spam by using Microsoft Outlook tools: Granted, you probably won't have many single-user systems, but in case you do, my previous column provides instructions for Microsoft Outlook 2003; however, the spam-fighting tips aren't exclusive to Outlook.
  • Help clients write and implement aggressive policies: To prevent spam, we must all be proactive. Help clients put policies in place that encourage spam prevention.

Your clients suffer from a loss of productivity and pay higher energy costs due to spam. Help them take the bite out of spam.

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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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