Outsourced security

While companies might have been slow to catch on to the idea of outsourced ICT security, Aziz M. Amer, regional manager at security specialist Astaro, says the concept is finally moving toward the mainstream. He tells CommsMEA about the main benefits, and how telecom operators and ISPs also stand to gain from handing their security over to specialist players.

Tags: Astaro CorporationOutsourcingUnited Arab Emirates
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Outsourced security
By  Roger Field Published  November 24, 2009 Communications Middle East & Africa Logo

While companies might have been slow to catch on to the idea of outsourced ICT security, Aziz M. Amer, regional manager at security specialist Astaro, says the concept is finally moving toward the mainstream. He tells CommsMEA about the main benefits, and how telecom operators and ISPs also stand to gain from handing their security over to specialist players.

Where is the security sector at now? What do customers expect from their security provider?

Where a UTM (unified threat management) system was the de-facto, standing for the three requirements of firewall, intrusion, and anti-virus – this is now old school. The new requirement is XTM, where you have a lot more modules and capabilities for it to be called a complete security solution. The customers are requesting a much richer suite of modules and capabilities all integrated under one umbrella, under one management console with one management contract.

So what else falls under that umbrella now?

While network security, mail security and web security is still important, the market is becoming more specialised. For example, we were losing business from companies who already had a firewall installed and wanted email protection or web protection only. So we stripped our solution into a separate web gateway, a separate mail gateway, or a complete UTM, which allowed us to be able to cater to users who already had a firewall and had done their investment in that. Customers can simply take whichever solutions they see fit.

What are the main challenges for a company such as Astaro?

We were ahead of our time by four years in trying to preach the benefits of outsourced security, and for four years we have been approaching the ISPs and their customers to offer them outsourced security, but it was rejected for the mere fact that they would be passing a customer’s traffic through a third party.

Our argument was that the ISP is already giving the customer the bandwidth – so do the customers trust the ISP? Why are we any less trustworthy than an ISP, or a patch from an anti virus FTP server giving an update? We have been challenging this for years, and it was just a mental block that people had.

This mindset is seen in some countries more than others, and is surprisingly common in Europe with countries like Sweden resisting outsourced security more than some third world countries and the US. In the Middle East it is a new culture, but with the data centres doing the work for large conglomerates, this has diminished the resistance from ISPs’ customer bases, and now it is more of an accepted scenario.

What are the main benefits of outsourced security, and how can ISPs benefit?

There are four challenges for companies buying security. First there is the technology assessment. Many IT managers don’t have the ability to make the right decision. Secondly, there is the upfront investment, while the third challenge is the fear of not being able to manage that box, making the IT manager look bad. Fourth is the fear of a lack of ongoing support from the security company. But with outsourced security on a leased scenario, we have removed all of those problems, because we are now offering you a secure service on a monthly fee.

How have larger companies and ISPs taken to this solution though?

Corporates are using it, and ISPs are starting to use it. We have done a project with Turksat, a leading ISP in Turkey to protect all of its home users, centrally managed by Astaro’s servers. We are offering virtual security which works best for home users because their requirements are less. Home users are getting real, top level security for as low as EUR10 a year or less.

Working with ISPs is now our focus, because Cyberia Jordan, for the past two years, has been protecting all of its accounts from malware and spam with our solutions, saving them 35% bandwidth.

Will we see more operators starting to use this type of service?

They will be forced to use it because they want to retain their bandwidth. They want to ensure that they are selling their bandwidth, without it being wasted with spam and malware. But it is not just about faster speeds, it is also about  making cost savings.

When you use an outsourced solution, you gain from efficiencies because the hardware is being used to a greater capacity, and it is also likely to be a better quality. We are saving you on the purchase of the modules and the hardware, and we are saving you on the more efficient use of the unit that is being used for five customers instead of one. We are also saving you on the expense of management where you once had to spend on security personnel.

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