Vendors eye SMBs for security offerings

Fueled by research findings indicating SMBs’ growing concerns about security and compliance, vendors are now looking at SMBs as a lucrative market for packaged, low-cost offerings.

Small businesses, with up to 99 employees, comprise 97 per cent of Canadian businesses, according to market researcher IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto. IDC estimated that total IT spending by SMBs in hardware, software and services from now until 2007 will reach $10 billion.

According to a recent survey conducted for IBM Corp. by Nielsen ReelResearch, security and compliance issues are increasingly pushing SMBs to put more money into technology infrastructure. The study surveyed 330 executives from small, medium and large enterprises.

Out of 165 SMB executives surveyed, 64 per cent said their company is actively implementing compliance measures, citing data security as the top priority.

Four in 10 SMBs polled plan on upgrading and acquiring new applications and information infrastructure.

Business protection takes the number one or number two spot in SMB’s priority hierarchy, according to Paul Brousseau, SMB marketing manager for HP Canada based in Mississauga, Ont.

“Small businesses, in general, do not have a dedicated IT resource. The majority of small businesses don’t have a server in their environment…and their data is stored on a PC with no back-up strategy,” Brousseau said.

And because they have limited resources, any security breach, such as data loss, could spell a huge disaster for the company, he added.

HP recently announced its newest suite of business protection offerings for SMBs, focusing on protection and security as well as data back-up and recovery, two “top-of-mind” issues for small businesses, according to Brousseau.

Running under the umbrella of HP’s Smart Office Client Protection and Network Security, the new offerings cover a combination of hardware, applications and services. It begins with an evaluation service called Security Vulnerability Assessment that surveys an organization using a remote diagnostic tool, said Brousseau. “We essentially become a hacker, we try and probe into the organization and find weaknesses. Once we have identified those weaknesses we build a recommendation as to how to strengthen their defenses.”

HP’s ProLiant DL320 Firewall/VPN/Cache Server, which runs Microsoft’s Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004, acts as a firewall that sits in front of the company’s network.

“As organizations are becoming more mobile, we have higher incidents of remote tunneling into an organization’s network, that puts them in a tremendous risk for security threats,” said Brousseau.

He said one of HP’s objectives is to unburden small businesses by managing the IT side of the organization. By allowing HP to serve as their IT department, through its Smart Desktop Management Service, businesses are ensured that desktops are running the latest operating systems and anti-virus software, and protected by an offsite back-up system.

The service also includes a chat capability that allows users to communicate with HP’s technicians for troubleshooting, Brousseau said. “(This is) really outsourcing the management of that desktop, a really interesting and innovative service to SMBs that, to my knowledge, nobody else offers.”

The Smart Desktop Management Service costs less than $20 a month per client. HP’s suite of SMB offerings, on the other hand, starts at $9,999.

For its part, IBM’s latest SMB offerings are addressing e-mail security. The IBM Express Managed Security Services offers e-mail protection offsite for medium-sized businesses, which includes scanning for spam, viruses and other questionable content before reaching the company network.

IBM also offers e-mail security on demand with its eServer OpenPower Network E-mail Security Express, ideal for companies with 100 to 1,000 employees. This offering is built on IBM’s OpenPower 710 system and uses the Message Processing Platform, created by Message Partners.

This network security system can fit into an existing network without replacing the client’s current e-mail servers.

“Establishing a secure IT environment is a crucial first step for addressing any set of business compliance issues, as well as protecting information assets and ensuring business continuity,” said Ayman Antoun, vice-president for SMB, IBM Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont.

Because smaller companies have limited resources, business offerings must be tailored to allow SMBs to retain and secure business data in the most cost-effective manner, Antoun said.

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