SMEs have struggled with paying for, and managing, their multi-layered information security systems for years. Most started by buying a hardware firewall product to guard perimeters. Some VARs built their businesses based on sales of this type of perimeter device in the 1990s and have been successful as a result.
Then, as the threats changed, so did the requirements. SMEs began investing in anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-phishing and anti-spyware software. Some spent money on hardware-based intrusion-prevention systems, while others turned to ‘piped in’ managed security services providers such as Message Labs, Symantec and BlackSpider. But as the number of systems grew in accordance with the increased number of threats, so did the problem of managing them.
This created the need for a new breed of intelligent multifunction appliances that offer SMEs the flexibility to access their network securely from wherever they are, while providing thorough checks on all devices before they can be connected to the corporate network.
This can be in the form of a router, which is capable of running concurrent data, voice and video, plus firewall and VPN access across a single converged network, such as the Cisco integrated services router.
SMEs that are looking for additional security provision tend to do two things: they demand that their ISP pipes are clear from viruses and blended threats; and they supplement ISP provision with dedicated managed security services.
This trend is born out by analyst predictions. IDC has predicted that in less than three years the multifunction and intrusion detection and protection appliance markets will be worth $3.7bn, while the firewall/VPN market will be worth just a third of that at $1.32bn by 2009.
Network security vendors that want to grow their SME business need to focus on providing intelligent multifunction and easy-to-manage appliances. Managed security services providers need to work on their packaging of services and offer bullet-proof all-in-one services for those that have already invested in some up-to-date security appliances. Finally, ISPs need to find ways to keep up to speed with the latest threats. If they get a good reputation for security, this will be a valuable weapon in the increasingly tough battle to win broadband SME customers.
Robert Hughes is OneDefense business manager at Comstor.
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