Security vendor Symantec earlier this month announced Symantec Hosted Endpoint Protection, a new cloud-based offering that the company says is targeted at companies up to about 250 users - small and mid-sized businesses, in other words. The idea here is simple: to offer comprehensive security for computer systems without the need for these often cash-strapped organizations to pay for a hardware appliance, or to face the hassle of installing (another) management software.
Symantec Hosted Endpoint Protection provides a range of security offerings such as antivirus, anti-spyware, firewall and host intrusion prevention for workstations, or antivirus and anti-spyware for file servers. This software-as-a-service is available to clients in North America and can also be bundled together with other Symantec hosted services such as those designed to protect communication channels like e-mail, Web or instant messaging.
Clients are updated automatically over the Internet and synchronized with the latest client policies, even from outside the company firewall or corporate VPN. In return, administrators get real-time alerts via text messages or e-mail and can perform a number of system administrative functions or access system logs remotely.
In effect, Symantec's hosted service is taking the place of an appliance or management console in a typical deployment. To lower the barrier to entry, everything revolves around a simple Web-based management console for centralized management.
Administrators in the SMB market have limited time and resources, says George Tomic, chief architect at Symantec Hosted Service. Highlighting the key strengths of Symantec Hosted Endpoint Protection, Tomic noted that:
The emphasis is on bringing the information to them. Administrators can receive real-time alerts via SMS or e-mail and can easily perform functions such as initiate a LiveUpdate to refresh system protection levels, view history on systems and change local policy settings.
Forrester Research analyst Jonathan Penn, has a word of caution though, and was quoted in an interview with eWEEK as saying:
Many of Symantec's SaaS offerings come from acquisition... and hence are not on functional parity with its CPE (customer premise equipment) counterparts, nor is the management unified across CPE and hosted.
In a nutshell, Penn is pointing out that SMBs should remember that Symantec Hosted Endpoint Protection is a less-mature suite of applications compared with non-hosted versions of similar software. In addition, it is also not integrated with existed CPE security solutions - something that small and mid-sized businesses should bear in mind.
Taking the long view on the subject though, it would seem to me that requiring an on-premise management device could soon be an antiquated concept, especially with companies such as McAfee and Websense having announced similar products or security offerings. Ultimately, SMBs should critically examine Symantec Hosted Endpoint Protection to see if it fits their specific needs before taking the plunge.