Webroot Kills E-mail Security Service, Plans End-Point Offensive

Webroot is set to notify U.S. resellers that it is exiting the e-mail security service business effective immediately in favor of an aggressive endpoint security offensive that includes a new anti-malware solution for businesses, according to a letter viewed by CRN.

The partner missive from the Broomfield, Colo.-based security vendor, which is expected to be sent to partners shortly, says Webroot is exiting some product lines -- including its Webroot Email Security Service -- and is modifying channel partner transaction requirements for others.

"Webroot is exiting the e-mail security business. We will not accept new business orders or renewals for this service," the company says of its Email Security Service in the letter.

At the same time, Webroot plans to launch a new anti-malware endpoint product offering for business customers this quarter, the letter says.

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"These decisions have not been taken lightly and are ultimately strategic determinations for building into our overall company strategy and giving our customers the highest level of protection," the company says in the letter.

The company is making the changes to its product lineup in response to an evolving threat landscape, according to the letter.

"As has been discussed in recent weeks, we at Webroot strongly believe that the main threat vectors that need to be protected in today's environments are endpoints -- whether traditional laptops and desktops or mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets in addition to the larger network itself," the letter reads. "Accordingly, we will be focusing our development and go-to-market efforts on delivering cloud-based endpoint, Web and mobile security solutions that will most effectively protect individuals and businesses in today's threat landscape."

The letter was provided to CRN for viewing by multiple sources, including one working closely with the vendor on a Webroot Email Security Service migration plan.

The forthcoming anti-malware product line, its first to be targeted at businesses, will be based on the Webroot SecureAnywhere consumer offering. The anti-malware business solution will pit Webroot against larger anti-malware competitors including Symantec and McAfee.

NEXT: When The New Anti-Malware Product Will Debut

Webroot said new partner contracts are now available for the new anti-malware offering and pre-release previews will be available ahead of the formal launch of the product.

The new business anti-malware offering is scheduled for beta release on February 13, one source said.

A Webroot spokesperson confirmed the changes via e-mail but declined to make company executives available for interviews. The strategic shift is based on what Webroot sees as an increasing number of threats coming from malicious Web sites and malware downloaded from the Web. Also driving the change was the fast-growth of Webroot's SecureAnywhere consumer endpoint product, which had garnered 1 million users since its launch in October, the spokesperson said.

"We believe the future of Internet security is in endpoint, Web and mobile protection and we’re uniquely positioned to bring our partners along with us in the battle against them," the spokesperson said via e-mail. Webroot plans to outline its new strategy and give a preview of its product roadmap during a North American partner conference in March or April, he said.

Webroot, a 450-employee company backed by venture capital firms Technology Crossover Ventures, Accel Partners and Mayfield, also noted in the letter that it has previously stopped supplying its Email Archiving Service for new business or renewals. Webroot is referring its archiving business to Sonian, a Newton, Mass.-based cloud archiving vendor with over 8,000 customers that does offer a channel program. Sonian representatives were unavailable for comment.

In addition, it is establishing what it calls new "parameters" for its Web Security Service and offering new partner contracts for the forthcoming SecureAnywhere product.

For example, it is establishing a new minimum order of $3,500 for its Web Security Service. "Orders below this threshold will not be accepted," the letter reads. "This applies to new business and renewals."

Webroot said in the letter that it has established a global team to work with its partners and customers on the product transitions. "We understand that this is a period of transition and will work you on your customer migrations where applicable," the letter reads.

NEXT: The Impact On Webroot Partners

One Webroot reseller in the process of moving its clients to Postini, Google's Web-based e-mail security service, is Jonesboro, Ga.-based Blended Systems. President Bob Stevens said Webroot notified him two months ago that it would exit the e-mail security business in December 2013. He learned of the new timetable last week.

"That's disconcerting for our customers, as you might imagine, but we're very happy with moving them over to Postini with good support," he said. The five-employee company, which has been a Webroot reseller since 2005, has thousands of e-mail seats that will be moved to the new provider.

One problem left hanging is how Webroot wants resellers to handle customers that have signed multi-year contracts in which they have paid upfront or are paying annually, Stevens said. Either way, customers will have to be compensated for early termination. "At some point, someone is going to have to give someone some money to buy out these service agreements," he said.

Webroot said in its letter to partners that customers not paid upfront should contact the company directly to "discuss early release from the service agreement."

In the United Kingdom, Webroot resellers have apparently already been notified of the company's plans. IT security integrator Infosec Technologies is advertising an advice line on its Web site for Webroot e-mail security users and resellers "to gain the best impartial advice available on maintaining and migrating their email content filtering, encryption and archiving with no loss of service." The company could not be reached for comment.

Westcoastcloud, a Glasgow, Scotland-based cloud services provider, said in a statement Wednesday that it is offering to transfer Webroot email archiving customers for free to its own BusinessMail service.

Webroot entered the software-as-a-service market in 2007 with the e-mail security service it acquired through the purchase of U.K.-based Email Systems. Three month later, the company expanded its reseller program to include its new SaaS products.

The Email Security Service departure comes in a market expected to grow to $7 billion by 2014 from $5 billion in 2010, according to The Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif. market research firm.