In a recent survey of telecom decision-makers conducted by Forrester Research Inc., 48 per cent of respondents from small- to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) said they use managed anti-virus services, while 42 per cent use managed firewall services

Lisa Pierce, vice-president of Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester, said most small businesses don’t have an IT person who only handles security.

“That person is juggling multiple tasks,” she said. “They might want to give security the attention it deserves, but when push comes to shove, there are times when they may not be able to.”

Forrester surveyed a total of 1,121 decision-makers at small- and mid-sized firms from North America and Europe, and asked 665 security decision-makers what level of interest they had in purchasing certain technologies such as a managed services during the next three years.

Thirty-four per cent said they have already bought intrusion detection and prevention as a managed service, while another 10 per cent said they were “very interested” in making such a purchase.

Forrester has not come to any conclusion about the statistical accuracy of the survey and cautions against using phrases such as “margin of error” when reporting results.

The research firm said the results of the survey, conducted by Evaluserve, can’t be used to make conclusions about the business community as a whole.

In a separate study, Forrester asked decision-makers at enterprises with more than 1,000 employees similar questions. About one in four (26 per cent) said they had already purchased managed firewall services, while nine per cent said they were “very interested” in making such a purchase during the next three years.

Nearly one-third (30 per cent) are using content filtering as a managed service, while 23 per cent said they are buying intrusion detection and prevention as a managed service.

Last year, nearly half of all managed security service revenue came from large organizations, according to Infonetics Research, a Campbell, Calif.-based market research firm.

About one-third of revenue came from mid-sized organizations, while small firms contributed about 21 per cent of revenues. Infonetics predicts the total market for managed services will grow 68 per cent between 2005 and 2009, from US$5 billion to US$8 billion.

Jeff Wilson, principal analyst at Infonetics, attributes this to the fact that hackers are no longer amateurs with too much time on their hands, and spyware can nearly cripple office systems.

“In the past, security was invested in by people who were really worried about someone stealing their corporate assets, but now everyone needs to invest in security, because the threats that are around today are productivity-crippling,” Wilson said. “Even if you don’t ever think a person’s going to steal a piece of data off your network, you have to worry about viruses and spam and spyware and all that stuff.”

One security technology available from service providers is virtual private networking (VPN), which Infonetics predicts will be a US$29 billion market by 2009. Half that market will be for bandwidth, said Wilson, rather than the security service itself. VPNs are the “primary tool” for sharing information among branch offices, he said.

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