Behind the shield

Forget the financial crisis, IT security is an area that customers cannot afford to compromise in any climate – or so the main security vendors like to tell us. With that in mind, we brought together the region’s top antivirus software suppliers and asked them how they see the market shaping up, and more importantly what they have to offer the channel.

Tags: AVG ( LabMcAfee IncorporationSymantec CorporationTrend Micro Middle EastUnited Arab Emirates
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Behind the shield Aman Manzoor, Middle East channel manager at Kaspersky.
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  June 15, 2010 Channel Middle East Logo

Our line-up of antivirus software experts includes Khalid Muasher, regional channel manager at BitDefender; Ramzi Itani, channel and alliance manager MENA at Symantec; Gareth Williams, VP sales for emerging markets at AVG; Sushma Kajaria, channel development manager MMEA at Trend Micro; Aman Manzoor, Middle East channel manager at Kaspersky; and Hamed Diab, regional director at McAfee.

CME: What is your assessment of the antivirus software market in the Middle East today given the challenges created by the financial crisis?

Gareth Williams: The antivirus market still stands strong after the financial crisis. In fact, with the economic situation cyber criminals have become even more active and, as such, business and consumers have increased their security precautions online. The Middle East region is still investing large sums into the IT industry and that requires continuous development of security products and awareness-building campaigns.

Sushma Kajaria: Firstly, attacks are growing in volume and complexity, and are becoming more targeted and focused. An important factor is that antivirus is becoming a smaller part of IT security, so when we talk about security we need to include wider elements such as data leakage protection, data centre security and encryption, for example. While 2009 was a tough year for our partners and customers it has been equally tough for the ‘bad guys’, meaning they have had to try harder. For the channel, this means making smart choices with the right vendor. Even in this financial crisis it can mean growing their business via depth — selling more into existing accounts — and breadth — such as opening up new opportunities in their markets.

Hamed Diab: The antivirus market in the Middle East is moving towards the commodity area and this movement is the same for other markets across the world. Antivirus is a generic need that everyone has due to the increasing threats and risks posed by cybercriminals. However, it has become increasingly clear that the need for security has gone beyond antivirus software only. The growing threat of cyber-attacks requires more comprehensive and sophisticated security systems and this is the direction the security market is moving towards. The security sector is weathering the storm better than many other technology sectors because customers need to protect themselves as much in rough times as they do when the economy is strong.

Ramzi Itaini: The IT security market has grown in line with the increase of malicious software in the Middle East region. Over the past few years, the threat landscape distribution model in the Middle East has shifted from a relatively small number of threats affecting millions of users towards one where millions of new threats are released every month and which target a few users in specific segments, in particular banks. For several years we have stood by the belief that with the increasing complexity of the threat landscape, antivirus on its own will not protect company infrastructure. Protection needs to take place at many levels, including firewall, intrusion detection, antivirus, antispam and network access control. Hence our products constitute a full protection suite.

CME: What sort of training and expertise does a partner need to sell your products successfully and profitably?

Sushma Kajaria: We are one of the few vendors that have invested in three differing solutions that specifically cater for the three sectors: consumer, SMB and enterprise. For consumer, no real experience is necessary as these are consumer-ready solutions. For SMB, the market requires a security solution that is simple to sell, deploy and manage. Our products are specifically designed to address this market. As such, partner training needs reflect the reduced complexity of the products. For the larger customers that need more complexity to manage security, the training and certification reflects the need to make sure the customers have the right solution, which is optimised for them.

Aman Manzoor: The training required for our partners to effectively sell and support our products is available online, free of cost to all our partners and resellers. After completing the training, the partner can choose to complete the certification examination, which is also available free of cost.

Ramzi Itaini: Symantec provides its channel with market-leading products, the best quality service and support, and programmes to help drive profitability. Training programmes include complete curriculums for sales, pre-sales and technical audiences within the partner community. Symantec’s Partner Opportunity Registration programme provides rebates to eligible Platinum and Gold partners who actively identify, develop and close sales opportunities in security, storage and systems management solutions. Partners need to be certified on the products for the Opportunity Registration Programme, so there are large numbers of partners looking to get educated.

Gareth Williams: AVG partners and authorised distributors receive training in all the AVG product lines and services available to customers they serve. They are authorised to manage multi-tier relationships in their region in order to be able to provide local dealer, customer and technical support.

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