Symantec Corp., a leader in Internet security, announced that the negative impact of spam on productivity and resources is motivating small businesses to consider taking substantial steps if the problem worsens. According to a survey of 500 small businesses conducted for Symantec by InsightExpress, the pioneer in online market research services, spam is a costly and growing business concern that is causing some organizations to consider opting out of e-mail altogether if the problem of spam increases.

"The results from this survey demonstrate that small businesses clearly regard spam as a business problem that threatens to undermine the efficiencies of Internet communication, transaction, and commerce," said Matthew Moynahan, vice president of Product Management, Client and Host Security, at Symantec. "However, through a combination of technology, vigilance, and best practices, small businesses can significantly reduce the negative impact of spam on their operations."

The survey found that small businesses are seeing a noticeable increase in spam in their inboxes. More than half (64 percent) of respondents reported an increase in spam over the past six months, with 33 percent noting dramatic increases. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said that spam made up more than half of the e-mail coming into their businesses.

Small businesses are also willing to take steps to reduce their exposure to spam should the problem continue, according to the survey. For example, 42 percent of small businesses said they would consider abandoning e-mail for business correspondence if the spam situation worsened. Fifty-five percent reportedly would consider changing their company e-mail addresses to stop spam. Moreover, 56 percent would consider locking down their e-mail server to allow only approved messages, which would also force all users who wanted to correspond with the company via e-mail to go through an approval process first. Thirty-two percent of respondents already invest the time and resources to help curb spam by submitting spam e-mail addresses to blacklist companies.

Spam also garnered a flurry of complaints from respondents. Users' top complaint, with 63 percent of respondents, was that spam is offensive in nature. Sixty-one percent complained that spam is distracting in the workplace, while 55 percent lamented the loss of productivity resulting from spam. Small business respondents also demonstrated a growing understanding of the potential malevolent impact of spam as 28 percent complained that it contains malicious code, 23 percent said spam is connected to credit card fraud, and 16 percent reported that it is linked to software piracy.

The survey also found that although small businesses spend little time deleting spam messages, they continue to acknowledge the drain on business resources it causes. Fifty-four percent reported that spam imposed business costs in the form of user productivity, followed by server and disk storage space (37 percent), and connection time (35 percent).

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