By Scott Tyson, Director of Global Sales at Mailprotector

It's always interesting to see reports of firms moving away from email and towards more collaborative tools, social networking, IM and internal communications portals like Yammer. The trend is certainly more popular among smaller companies and start-ups where email has not always been the default communications tool. More often than not, email today is seen as unproductive and a time waster.

But the fact is that in 2015, email is more popular than ever. According to The Radicati Group’s Email Market Report (2014-2018), the worldwide email market continues to grow. Today, there are over 2.5 billion email users, expected to grow to 2.8 billion by the end of 2018.

The problem however is the sheer number of unwanted emails we receive. According to our own research earlier this year, small and medium sized businesses could be losing as much as £34,000 a year each from unwanted email. This includes spam and emails containing malware and other malicious software.

This figure includes employee time spent opening, reading and deleting unwanted emails, as well as related support costs from IT and other company or third-party resources. But what it doesn’t factor in is downtime and costs from networks and systems that may have been affected by malware or spam emails.

Unwanted email is exactly that and while it may seem like it takes just a few seconds to delete each one, it actually amounts to several hours – in fact up to a day a year. This is not time well spent for you or your staff and when you factor in support costs (when things do go wrong) or mitigating the harmful effects of phishing emails and other malware, then it starts to look like serious money off the bottom line.

So when you consider that the number of business emails is set to rise at an average rate of 7 per cent over the next four years, reaching 139 billion by the end of 2018, it’s little surprise that the £34,000 figure is likely to go up even further.

So if the use of email is set to rise, what can small businesses do about unwanted email? Here are five top tips on minimising the number and risks of unwanted emails.

- Ensure you have a reliable email filtering solution in place. With most businesses using cloud applications and systems today, a cloud-based solution delivers a value for money per user, per month service.

- As a general rule, do not reply to a spam email or send a ‘remove from mailing list’ request to an email from someone you do not know or are not sure about. This confirms to a spammer that your address is valid, and you may get even more spam.

- For emails that you do recognise, use the ‘unsubscribe’ option to be removed from their list. It’s worth doing this on a regular basis, as we are all guilty of subscribing to newsletters, updates and other emails and then never reading them!

- When registering on a website using your work email address, check out the small print to ensure you are not subscribing to unnecessary emails. Most have an ‘opt out’ option.

- Make sure you have a secure password for email, preferably alphanumeric with a mix of upper and lower case – make it as hard as possible to guess. Keep passwords from prying eyes and if you do click on a suspicious link, change it immediately and let IT know.