Virus infections due to inefficient antivirus (AV) software costs UK business millions of pounds a year in downtime, according to a report out this week.
The research, carried out by analyst the Hurwitz Group, was commissioned by managed email security firm MessageLabs.
It shows that the cost of cleaning up a virus infection for a company with 5,000 employees is £585,410.
For a small company with 250 staff the cost is £29,271. This includes lost productivity, help desk calls, user downtime and cleaning the system.
Added to this is the annual cost of updating AV software, estimated at £426,542 for the larger company and £23,389 for the smaller company.
Although traditional AV software is used by 95 per cent of businesses, MessageLabs claimed that email viruses, such as SirCam, are still slipping through the net and infecting 10 per cent of users.
Mark Sunner, chief technology officer at MessageLabs, maintained that AV software is not suited to the internet.
"Most AV software was developed in a pre-internet age when the sharing of an infected floppy disk was as dangerous as things got. For many companies, downloading virus patches amounts to no more than closing the gate after the horse has bolted," he said.
MessageLabs' managed service monitors emails by routing them through its control centres where they are checked by different scanners to prevent infected messages reaching corporate networks.
Large businesses could save £741,000 a year using the managed service model, according to the report.
However, AV software vendor Sophos said that no single solution on its own is the answer, and insisted that the report had picked on the wrong target.
"The people costing UK business millions of pounds are the scumbags writing these viruses. Let's not forget that," argued Graham Cluely, senior technology consultant at Sophos.
A layered defence including AV software, user education and email filtering is essential, he said.
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