A deluge of email, proliferating personal and business addresses and lack of manageability are making email more a hindrance than a help to many organisations, according to a new survey.

The survey of nearly 500 business users sponsored by JPY, a maker of email management software, found that the world of business email is more complicated than ever. For instance, three-quarters of respondents said they have a minimum of three email addresses, with 13.8% using 10 or more addresses.

Multiple addresses are largely used to categorise incoming business mail, but have the side-effect of making email harder to manage, JPY said.

Email commonly crosses borders between work and personal addresses and users often need information found in an email in another user's account, the survey found.

Nearly 60% of users send and receive business email from personal accounts, and eight out of 10 use business accounts to send and receive personal email, the survey found.

Nearly two-thirds said they sometimes needed access to information in an email found in a colleague's account, for instance someone not currently in the office. The majority said they'd resolve the problem by bothering the IT department or getting the colleague to divulge his password, raising security and privacy concerns. Not surprisingly, 60% said they saw privacy issues in allowing others into their business account.

JPY said the findings show companies need to think seriously about how the business information held in e-mails is organized and managed.

"Without a robust strategy for managing the knowledge trapped in email, securing it and using it for a business advantage, companies risk being held hostage by email," said JPY managing director Dr John Yardley.