Despite the myriad threats borne by e-mail, the medium remains the central hub of communication for the majority of customers. And as long as it does, securing it will be a potential revenue source for solution providers, and a profitable one at that. Content security company Websense claims on its Web site that its partners earn between 40 percent and 50 percent margin on all new business.
And how hard a sell could it be? After all, filtering malware before it reaches your e-mail server rather than removing it afterward is just plain common sense. So which hosted security company should you partner with? They all claim to be the best -- filtering the most unwanted messages, detecting viruses the quickest or providing the most 9's of availability. In our experience, most do a pretty good job of finding bugs and removing unwanted e-mail, maybe because those things are so abundant.
So what makes one service stand out? Key factors include ease of setup and use, reliability, deployment flexibility and cost. Support also may be a factor for your organization, but since many of the partner programs include training, we'll assume a technical staff has that covered.
The CRN Test Center looked at Websense Hosted Security, one of a number of services offered by this company with corporate offices in San Diego and Dublin. Along with its service, Websense includes a service level guarantee of 99.999 percent uptime, the equivalent of 20 minutes of downtime per year. The company currently operates eight dual-homed data centers (with a ninth on the way), each with between six and eight equipment racks in a shared tenancy model with full failover capability. Its data centers are ISO 27001 certified, a process that includes ongoing analysis of the company's risk treatment plans and security practices.
In testing, we found that Websense's "hover help" could use some help. For example, the hint for the Directory Synchronization function read "Configure directory synchronization for your account." However, testers did find favor with the Support tab, under which is a series of online training videos (made with Adobe Captivate) demonstrating common tasks. Two caveats: It's not obvious how to pause the videos, and they open in the same window where you're trying to perform tasks. So unless you open a second window to your Websense settings, you'll need to watch the video and perform the steps from memory.
The configuration process involves selection of a means of deploying the service to clients (usually as a proxy), configuring your firewall to allow packets for the hosted service to pass through, adding your Internet gateway(s) to the client's policy and configuring end-user authentication. Some of this is documented in the videos, including deployment, which to our surprise was not mentioned anywhere in the online help.
The Dashboard also is minimalist, listing information about the top five malware and viruses found globally along with a pie chart of where-found categories (search engine, advertisement, etc). The only local information provided is that of bandwidth usage and security requests processed. None of the Dashboard data can be drilled into for further detail.
On the plus side, Websense includes a powerful content inspection engine to protect corporate networks from malware found in e-mail, on Web sites and on the destination sites of Web links traveling though e-mails. Optionally, the tool also can inspect outbound traffic for confidential corporate data such as credit card or shipper account numbers. The service requires no on-premise equipment.
Websense also can run as a Windows group policy, in which case objects and users are routed to through the company's data center, offering a transparent means of authentication with no need to reauthenticate when using a browser. This is accomplished by synchronizing the client company's LDAP or Active Directory with the Websense cloud service. For roaming users with varying IP addresses, the solution provides a Web page or path file that connects them automatically with policies to access their filters. There's performance monitoring for usage and latency, a client protection validation applet, full automated auditing, message logs and reporting capabilities built in.
Though not quite as polished as similar services we've seen, Websense offers a solution with guaranteed availability at a per-user price that's hard to beat (volume dependent starting at $41 per year). What's more, it offers a solid channel program with lead generation from its Web site and distribution through Tech Data. For the budget-conscious customer, the Test Center recommends Websense.
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