Small firms stung by spam costs

Spam is costing small and medium businesses nearly as much as handling virus outbreaks

Junk email and fax spam are eating away at SMEs' budgets -- almost as much as cleaning up the damage caused by a virus outbreak does.

Research from the Royal Bank of Scotland Corporate, which questioned 1,000 small businesses, found one in 10 small and medium-sized businesses believe they spend £10,000 a year dealing with spam. One in 50 businesses reported they'd spent the same amount rectifying the effects of a virus attack.

The cost of taking steps against malware can be a similarly financially draining experience, with preventative measures, such as firewalls, and the recovery of data after a low-level attack costing about £1,000 per SME.

And, unlike larger companies, SMEs get the raw end of the deal because they don't wield enough buying power to compel vendors to drop their prices.

A recent survey by the Computer Security Institute showed that the more seats a business has, the smaller its security cost. Companies with annual sales of more than $1bn typically paid a little more than $100 per worker on security, while companies with revenue of less than $10m spent an average of $500 per worker, the survey revealed.

Even the humble fax is lifting cash out of SMEs' corporate wallets -- over half of the businesses questioned said they spent up to £500 a year dealing with unwanted marketing faxes.

CNET's Robert Lemos contributed to this report.