Bell spins off security firm for enterprise customers

Bell Canada has created a new company from which to manage all of its enterprise security offerings and will establish a centre of operations in Ottawa.

The company is called Bell Security Solutions Inc. (BSSI) and will spearhead Bell’s

plan to corner the Canadian market on enterprise security management. “We plan to be the largest security organization in Canada,” said Isabelle Courville, president of Bell Canada Enterprise Group during a Tuesday morning press conference in Ottawa.

BSSI will be led by Charles Salameh, who was formerly Bell’s vice-president of enterprise solutions.

BSSI will offer a raft of security solutions from managed VPNs to spam and virus protection to identity management services, said Salameh. Bell has provided many of these services for several years and has offered forms of enterprise security since 1995, but this is the first time they will be grouped under one roof. “The launch of Bell Security Solutions today is simply a reinforcement of that commitment,” he said.

Bell, for example, was a key partner in Secure Channel, the federal government’s initiative to ensure safe surfing for Government On-Line users. Bell has since provided security services for the government of Quebec and developed an anti-spam solution for Industry Canada.

The security company will be another arrow in Bell’s quiver, said Salameh, particularly as customers migrate to IP-based networks. “As our world becomes increasingly more networked, even more powerful digital applications are possible. But all that growth and all that power creates a terrific increase in security exposure,” he said.

Because Bell manages a large percentage of the nation’s communications infrastructure, enterprise users may be willing to consider the company as their main security provider as well, said Mary Kirwan, principle of Headfry Inc., a Toronto-based security consultancy.

“This is a very competitive business, so I’m sure it’ll still remain challenging for them, but they have a big installed base and customers will probably be happy to buy it all under one roof if they can do it in a way that makes sense for the right price,” she said.

“I think enterprises are looking for somebody to tie it all together,” agreed Iain Grant, managing director of the SeaBoard Group in Montreal. But the real selling point, said Grant, is that Bell is willing to take on so much of the responsibility of security management. “This is all about the comfort factor.”

There are other companies that will provide the types of services that Bell is offering, he added, but few that can provide such a range. Telus, Bell’s chief telephony competitor in Canada, can compete on some levels but its influence is limited geographically to the West. Rogers Inc. has made a statement in broadband service, and later this year will provide voice-over IP telephone service, but has limited experience with enterprise customers, said Grant.

Bell is celebrating 125 years in business, but the idea of a telecommunications company being primarily a voice provider is now quite antiquated. Salameh told last year that, “the cozy line between software providers, hardware providers, systems integrators and ILECs is completely blurred now.”

Despite Bell’s confidence that it can win new security customers and encourage existing customers to use its services, Salameh acknowledged that there will be hurdles to overcome. Security purchases are often driven by emotion and fear rather than rational thought and economic considerations, he said. In other cases, businesses will delay security purchases indefinitely. “Complacency is alive and well,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Bell plans an aggressive campaign to promote its security practice, he said. Some of Bell’s existing facilities in Ottawa are being remodeled to accommodate the new company as well as a customer solutions centre. Bell will also double its security personnel this year, bringing the total to 400.

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