SMBs Want Multi-Function Security Appliances say Comstor

Robert Hughes, OneDefense Business Manager at distributor Comstor says SMBs are increasingly looking for more sophisticated multi-function security appliances says Comstor

“We are on the threshold of another wave of consolidation in the network security world. But this time the consolidation is not entirely driven by the financiers. We believe it is a direct response to changing buying behaviour of the bulk of the Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs).

SMBs have been struggling with paying for, and managing, their multi-layered information security systems for several years. Most started with buying a hardware firewall product to guard their ‘perimeters’. Some resellers built their entire businesses based on sales of this type of perimeter device in the 1990s and have been very successful as a result.

Then, as threats changed and diversified, requirements became more complicated. SMBs began investing in anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-phishing and anti-spyware software. Some invested in hardware-based IPSs (Intrusion Prevention Systems) while others turned to ‘piped in’ managed security services providers like Message Labs, Symantec and Blackspider. As the number of systems grew in line with the increase in number and types of threats so did the problem of managing, maintaining and configuring them.

This has created the need for a new breed of intelligent multi-function appliances which offer SMBs the necessary flexibility to access the network securely from wherever they are, while providing thorough checks on all devices before they are allowed to 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, VPN access and IPS across a single ‘converged’ network such as the popular Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR).”

Hughes says that if a customer wants to increase the level of network security whilst reducing the number of appliances being used, the Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) from Cisco is an option.

“The ASA combines firewall, secure remote access to the corporate network via an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) and protection to your network by helping to detect, classify and stop threats, including worms, spyware/adware, network viruses and application abuse.

Those looking for additional security provision are tending to do three things: firstly they are demanding that their ISP pipes are clear from viruses and blended threats. Secondly they are supplementing ISP provision with dedicated managed security services. Finally they are looking for intelligent multi-function security appliances like the Cisco ASA 5500 to provide an additional layer of protection once through the firewall, router and/or other perimeter device.

This trend is born out by analyst predictions as well. IDC predicts that in less than three years the multi-function and intrusion detection and protection appliance segments will be worth $3.7bn while the firewall/VPN market will be worth just a third of that at $1.318bn by 2009.

The conclusion – network security vendors who want to seriously grow their SMB business need to focus on providing intelligent multi-functional and ‘easy-to-manage’ appliances. Managed security services providers need to work on their packaging of services – offering bullet-proof ‘all-in-one’ services or modular ‘a la carte’ options for those who have already invested in some up-to-date security appliances. And finally ISPs need to find ways to keep up to speed with the latest threats and pipe data in as clean as they can. If they get a good reputation for security this will be a valuable weapon in the increasingly tough battle to win broadband SMB customers.”