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Anti-spam tsunami hits SMEs

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Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

World + dog is trying to carve extra revenues from the crowded anti-spam marketplace by targeting small business.

This week UK-based Sophos launched its Small Business Suite, a set of integrated software packages with desktop server and e-mail gateways components, designed to shield smaller companies from spam and viruses.

Three more firms are to unveil SME-orientated anti-spam products at London's InfoSec conference next week. CipherTrust, Mirapoint and Unipalm will all use the conference to promote the launch of various products and services designed to help SMEs to hold back the spam tsunami. Most are essentially cut-down, easier-to-use versions of existing enterprise products.

CipherTrust will use InfoSec to launch its IronMail S-Series appliances in Europe. S-Series appliances are marketed as offering "enterprise class email security" to the small and medium-sized business market. The technology was launched in the US in February.

Mirapoint will publicly demonstrate its all-in-one security appliance, RazorGate, for the first time in Europe at Infosec. Launched in January, RazorGate appliances are designed to protet small businesses and branch offices from spam, virus and hacker attacks.

Meanwhile, distie Unipalm will use InfoSec to promote its managed security services package, SafeAnet. SafeAnet offers anti-virus, anti-spam, web content filtering to home workers and small businesses. The service runs on Check Point Safe@Office appliances managed by Unipalm.

Aside from the packaging, the products from these vendors differ in taking either a software (Sophos), appliance (CipherTrust and Mirapoint) or service (Unipalm) approach to the problem. Each segment is already populated by numerous vendors, all jockeying for attention. Last month analyst Gartner predicted that the 40 vendors in the anti-spam market will shrink to fewer than 10 by the end of the year, Techweb reports.

Too many players

If anything, Gartner under-estimates the number of players in the anti-spam market. Every security vendor we can think of - with the exception of Cisco Systems - has some kind of anti-spam product. But accepting Gartner's argument that the enterprise market is consolidating then it's no surprise that even vendors who will probably survive the shake-out are eyeing the SME market for growth.

A poll of nearly 4,000 small and medium-sized businesses by Sophos shows that 80 per cent of companies found the flood of spam made them less productive at work, yet only 28 per cent have any form of anti-spam filtering in place. As spam volumes increase, the need for anti-spam products grows. Entry costs for vendors are low, and so we're seeing a growth in the anti-spam market comparable to that of the anti-virus market in the early 1990s.

One of the difficulties reporting of this market is there's little or no intelligence on the effectiveness of rival products. We harbour a nagging suspicion that many commercial products are little more effective than open source or Internet community initiatives that have been going on for some time.

Of those anti-spam products we've tried (admittedly not very many) only Spam Assassin is any good at weeding out bounced messages from AV sensors or notices that a "virus has been removed from your email", for example. Letters from readers tell us we're far from alone in seeing the volume of such messages rise to rival that of regular spam. ®

Related stories

One third of email now spam
Anti-spam filters kill legitimate emails
AV vendors muscle in on anti-spam
The trouble with anti-virus
Anti-virus companies: tenacious spammers

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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