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The Spam Solution
But whether a nuisance or security threat, escalating spam levels have users stumped as to how to handle the problem. Antispam solutions vary across board, ranging from cloud, to appliance and almost infinite hybrid solutions that combine the two, depending on the size and needs of the customer.
And while spam affects businesses of all sizes, it's the cash-strapped SMBs that will likely be hurt the most, experts say.
"The amount of spam and amount of malware is doubling every year," said Eric Jensen,Trend Micro senior global product marketing manager. "That's a pretty big headache. The biggest pain point is the rapid evolution of threats, and that puts IT staff in a dilemma."
For the smallest companies, one of the most cost-effective ways to combat spam is outsourcing basic antispam functions to the cloud, which filters all unwanted e-mails at the gateway before they reach the customer's network, while providing scanning and detection in realtime.The cloud model also reduces the customer's overhead costs, increases predictability with one monthly bill, and allows organizations lacking IT staff to focus on growing their business, which makes it a particularly attractive option in the lower market segments, solution providers say.
"For smaller organizations, they tend to go with the cloud model because they don't want to manage it. In the grand scheme, the cost is minimal," said Shane Vinup, president and CEO of Maple Grove, Minn.-based CyberAdvisors, and a Kaspersky Lab partner. "In environments of 1,000 users or less, they are much more comfortable giving up that control."
Roy Miehe, CEO of AAAntivirus, based in Campbell, Calif., and a Red Condor partner, contends that the cloud allows him to provision new customers with an antispam solution that can be up and running in about a half-hour, while allowing him to remotely scan and monitor threats for multiple clients in a matter of minutes.
And while cloud antispam gained traction with the economic meltdown, the cloud model will continue to be viable once the economy recovers, he said, even for some larger customers that prefer to loosen up cash flow by committing to a recurring monthly bill rather than coming up with up-front capital for an on-premise appliance.
"They've got the NOC set up for them. There's no strain or fuss or muss.With 388 million pieces of garbage, Exchange would have had to handle those.You need some pretty big hardware to take care of that kind of stuff," Miehe said. "I think that cloud is here to stay. If it's not broken, why fix it?"
But other solution providers contend that in 2010 and beyond, many larger customers will prefer an antispam solution that falls somewhere in the middle, occupying a hybrid crossover that blends an on-premise appliance, software or some kind of cloud service.
Depending on the customer's needs, the hybrid approach often includes a hosted spam prevention service, coupled with a UTM appliance that incorporates firewall, antivirus and another antispam layer.
Solution providers also say that having an antispam appliance on premise provides a deeper level of defense. Content inspection that looks for key words like Viagra is fine—unless you're a doctor's office and will likely be both sending and receiving e-mails containing these and other sensitive medical terms. And more antispam solutions are also detecting malicious links embedded in the e-mail message, experts say.
Meanwhile, solution providers say that the layered approach will be the surest way to hedge bets in eradicating the majority of spam.
"The one thing we have learned is that everything has to work in layers," Freeman said. "Everything has to be complementary. If you pick a cloud provider, you want to pick something vastly different for a complete protection scheme. You really want that depth of defense."
The hybrid approach becomes infinitely more complex, time-consuming and more varied in the midtier and enterprise—which can translate to more consulting and assessment service opportunities on the presale side for partners. But the added complexity of the hybrid environment enables businesses to tailor their security environment to fit their exact specifications, which ultimately gives them more control over their IT environment, solution providers say.
"With bigger businesses, [security] becomes more complex. There's not a cookie-cutter solution in the midtier," Vinup said. "Having all these pieces in play, you have a pretty solid security plan."