Symantec eyes enterprise version of SaaS offering

Symantec Corp. wants to capture the online service market with the launch of its Symantec Protection Network, which will serve as a platform for offering its products and services under the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

Despite the big plans for its SaaS platform, Symantec is starting small with an offering that’s designed primarily for the small and medium enterprise. The Online Backup Service, currently in beta and slated for commercial availability in the late summer, enables companies to have disaster recovery resources without necessarily having to invest in costly infrastructure, said Jeff Hausman, senior director of product management at Symantec Corp. in Cupertino, Calif.

The Online Backup Service will allow customers to specify which information they want to be protected and encrypt that information before transmitting them to Symantec for storage. Only the customer holds the private key for decrypting the information, explained the Symantec executive.

“Targeting the SMBs is a result of discussion we had with our customers and partners,” said Hausman. “The biggest need and challenge seems to be in the small and medium businesses, getting the protection that they need.”

Backup and disaster recovery offered as a SaaS model is an attractive alternative for smaller organizations because the cost of investing in a backup infrastructure can be very high, said James Quin, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research in London, Ont.

“Symantec brings an enterprise solution to a business that can’t necessarily afford it,” Quin said.

Despite its design for the SMBs, however, Symantec’s SaaS vision includes offering the platform for the large enterprise as well, Hausman said. “The technology that we have put in place will scale to support larger companies.”

One Canadian analyst believes the online backup offering from Symantec may just be a suitable fit for the Canadian mid-market.

“The mid-market in Canada would be a good sweet spot for (the Online Backup Service),” said David Senf manager of software research at IDC Canada.

He cited a recent IDC survey showing a steady growth among medium and large organizations for planned deployment of storage software, including backup and archiving technologies.

“We see a lot of anticipated growth and desire in Canadian organizations for disaster recovery services, yet they don’t have the IT staff to be able to pull it off,” Senf said.

Online Backup Service is only the first step into Symantec’s SaaS vision, said Hausman. The plan for the Symantec Protection Network is to take all of Symantec’s offerings and provide them as an online service, he added.

“The idea is to give people different vehicles by which to consume our technology,” he said. He added future SaaS offerings will consider the large enterprise as a possible target.

For instance, Symantec’s security offerings can be a viable SaaS offering for both SMBs and large businesses, Hausman said. However, there is no specific strategy at the moment for such services.

One Canadian IT security expert, meanwhile, is doubtful that a SaaS model will work in the enterprise space.

“Enterprises typically already have large investments in place for backup services and their processes. Supplanting their investments with this outsourced model doesn’t really make economical sense,” said Francis Ho, an executive committee member of Toronto-based Federation of Security Professionals (FSP). FSP is an association of IT security practitioners working towards the education and skills enhancement of security professionals.
In addition, enterprises typically adhere to certain regulatory requirements, such as those that compel them to ensure that their service provider meets stringent controls in handling corporate data. Due diligence from the enterprise may require its service provider to produce an independent audit report to ensure that such controls are in place, explained Ho.

“I don’t think Symantec wants to go there; hence, the target for SMB – there’s a much less likelihood a SMB would ask for this level of due diligence,” he said.

Senf agreed that implementing a centralized SaaS model across the board in a large organization may not be a viable strategy, but does not believe the model should be totally discounted in the enterprise environment.

IDC research has been showing “strong propensity” in large enterprises for SaaS, providing a low-cost model to provide departmental-level functionality, he said. 

“We also see (SaaS) having good traction with departments in (large) organizations that want to get something up and running quickly, and may be sidestepping the IT department to avoid some delays,” he explained.

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