Symantec hybrid service represents “unique” approach to endpoint security

Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec Corp. has unveiled what may be a unique hybrid of a security product and service today with its Managed Endpoint Protection Services.

With the help of a light-weight management console installed on company desktops, Symantec says,it can monitor and remotely manage endpoints to keep them secure.

This service extends the security vendor’s reach from the server level right down to the individual computer level, the company says.

This, says Symantec, adds yet another layer of security that’s necessary in the face of exponentially increasing threats.

The company’s research into enterprise needs convinced them to develop such a product, according to Grant Geyer, vice-president of managed services for Symantec.

“We think having endpoint protection to complement traditional security techniques is going to add an additional layer of security that a lot of organizations are asking for,” Geyer says. “We’re making sure all the components are tuned properly for an organization’s needs.”

In a survey of 1,000 enterprises commissioned by Symantec, nearly half of the respondents reported a rise in malware attacks over the past two years. Also, nearly half the companies faced system downtime as a result of malicious software or hacker attacks.

Perhaps more importantly for Symantec, about six out of 10 companies polled said they are considering or already outsourcing security services. Companies looking to outsource cite around-the-clock coverage and access to expertise as top reasons for their decision.

The new offering from Symantec represents a unique approach to endpoint security, according to Jon Oltsik, senior analyst of information security with the Enterprise Strategy Group in Millford, Mass.

“The hybrid approach just isn’t there with their competitors,” he says. “The more options you can provide to a customer, the better.”

Symantec wants to make endpoint security available to its customers in as many different flavours as possible, Oltsik adds. This allows them to grow their potential customer base and have more up-sell opportunities.

The worldwide economic recession has affected almost every business decision being made lately and computer security is no different. It’s expensive to keep a fleet of machines up to date and patched. It requires an IT department’s time and when it’s not done properly, can directly result in lost revenue, or worse.

Hackers are financially motivated, sifting through corporate networks to find sensitive information that can be sold on the Web’s underground economy.

With one third of U.S. companies saying they have understaffed IT departments in Symantec’s survey, it may be becoming harder to meet the growing online threats.

“As opposed to relying on their own staff to manage and configure everything in-house, you can rely on Symantec’s knowledge and best practices to ensure technology is configured properly,” Geyer says. “They can move their in-house teams on to more strategic tasks and outsource the labour intensive tasks to the experts.”

Symantec’s security analyst operate under contracts that outline strict service level agreements, he adds.

Companies with small or understaffed IT departments could benefit most from an offering like this, analysts say.

“Small or ‘one man’ IT shops that support users working with sensitive data will benefit from this service since it will allow them to focus on on other more pressing IT matters,” says Candice Low, research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

“It’s for anyone who’s endpoint security is in maintenance mode, or they feel like they can’t do as good a job as Symantec,” Oltsik says.

The offering comes with two modes. There is the 24/7 monitoring mode that will alert IT departments when problems are detected at the endpoints. Or, there is the managed mode, where Symantec will actually roll out software, make updates, and deal with security threats during business hours.

“Imagine you have an outbreak taking place in your environment,” Symantec’s Geyer says. “By monitoring the endpoint protection, we can identify what and where the malware is. It will provide quick and clear answers to know what you need to do.”

Many companies may start with the monitoring service to be notified of what actions they have to take during business hours, Low says. It’s one way to tap Symantec’s expertise without giving them complete control over endpoints.

Symantec’s service could be used by firms that have competitors’ antivirus programs — to keep them up to date and patched, Geyer says. Or the product can be offered as part of a package that includes Symantec’s endpoint protection software products.

Realistically, Symantec will probably focus on providing the service to their own customers first, Oltsik says.

“They’ll start with Symantec products as a way to kick the tires on this,” he says.

Managed Endpoint Protection Services is available around the world as of today, and price varies depending on how many endpoints need to be protected.

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