VARs Answer The Call For Security In The Midmarket

From implementing firewalls and antivirus solutions to finding ways to keep an increasingly mobile workforce secure, many midmarket companies, with 100 to 1,000 employees, are turning to solution providers for answers. “The cry of pain out in the wild is growing a little bit louder,” said Kimbal Binder, network security manager for Rain Networks, Kirkland, Wash. Ever since the CodeRed Worm hit networks in 2001, he said, security has been something people pay close attention to. Running laptops and desktops on the network with preinstalled antivirus software isn&'t enough.

“We&'re seeing an uptick in security services, and people are really stepping up now on spyware initiatives and desktop lockdown initiatives more so than in the past,” said Michelle Drolet, founder and CEO of security solution provider Conqwest, Holliston, Mass.

Interest in security products has increased across the board, and the needs of midmarket companies vary from business to business, she said. “It depends on what type of organization it is and how connected they are to the world,” Drolet said. “Sometimes firewall and antivirus technology at the entryway and on the desktops is all they need. Sometimes they need to have continual testing and monitoring and have their servers scanned for vulnerabilities and lock them down.”

VPNs are helping companies keep networks secure as workers become increasingly mobile. By securing the network at the application level and not the network level, the system is safer from attack, she said. “When you have remote users, it&'s the best way to let them in because it&'s browser-based,” Drolet said.

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Compliance with federal regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA has also driven public midmarket companies to step up security measures, Drolet said.

Binder added, “If [companies] get audited now, the auditor is going to say that it&'s not enough to just have a verbal policy in place. You have to have something on your network.” As keeping the network secure and keeping the bad guys out become a necessary part of doing business, enterprise-quality solutions are becoming more accessible, VARs said.

Midmarket companies can get robust and powerful firewalls that are of enterprise quality for less than they used to cost, said Stefan Zauchenberger, president and managing partner at ICE Systems, Kansas City, Kan. “Your antivirus [product] these days is almost a given,” Zauchenberger said. “If someone is operating in a fairly large capacity and doesn&'t have antivirus running on their systems, it&'s pretty strange … Spyware is still fairly new but it&'s coming up with a vengeance, and a lot of times people are finding their antivirus product isn&'t handling spyware and malware.”

Keeping spyware and malware off the network often leads companies back to the gateway.

“A lot of midmarket companies are now beginning to do what the larger companies are doing, which is have a gateway for these things and then something on the internal network,” Rain Networks&' Binder said. Zauchenberger noted, “If there&'s one thing that I think is becoming more expected, or at least more in demand, it is content filtering. Some of these bad elements and malware are coming in because people are going to [Web sites] they shouldn&'t be going to.”

Content filtering solutions can prevent employees from behaving badly and losing productivity by shopping or playing fantasy football on company time, Zauchenberger said, so it helps to pitch products to the bottom line.

Solution providers pointed out that maintaining strong vendor partnerships enables them to keep up with technology advances, which benefits everyone involved in a deal.

“A lot of times customers approach us based on the exposure they might have to the product that we&'re carrying. That&'s been a major source of our leads and revenue. We have very good relationships with our vendors, so our focus is to become experts and a true value-added reseller on them,” Zauchenberger said.

“There is a growing market for network access control [and] asset protection, but at least they haven&'t reached our market on any major scale yet,” he said. “We&'re still dealing with the more obvious things.”