Managed Security Services – ensuring enterprise strength protection for the SME

The IT threat landscape is one which is constantly evolving, with a multitude of malware that is becoming increasingly intelligent and targeted, and increasingly delivered through ever more diverse channels including search engines and social networking.

January 12, 2012

 The IT threat landscape is one which is constantly evolving, with a multitude of malware that is becoming increasingly intelligent and targeted, and increasingly delivered through ever more diverse channels including search engines and social networking. As cybercrime has become the most profitable criminal empire in the world, these threats are not to be taken lightly, and organisations have a greater need than ever to ensure they are adequately protected. This, along with an increased trend towards outsourcing of services to expert providers within the IT space, has led to the emergence of Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs), which offer outsourced expertise and infrastructure around security services to deliver enterprise class protection to businesses of all sizes.

MSSPs focus specifically on offering security solutions either using equipment on the customer’s premises or by rerouting traffic through centre cloud-based system, ensuring that security solutions are up to date and can provide the necessary levels of protection. This is particularly useful in the small and medium enterprise (SME) space, where security is not necessarily a core capability, but due to the nature of the modern IT environment has become a business necessity.

“Threats today evolve so quickly that if security is not managed by someone who knows the field inside out and keeps up to date, then organisations are left open to severe vulnerabilities. It makes sense then for these organisations to contract in a specialist provider to manage security, who has all of the necessary infrastructure, skills and expertise to keep up with the evolution of threats, which is where MSSPs come into the picture,” says Dominique Honnay, Director of Emerging Markets and EMEA Distribution at SonicWALL.

This managed services model has a number of benefits, not least of which is access to specialist skills at a cost effective price that suits the budgets of SME organisation. Contracting an expert MSSP also ensures that security solutions remain up to date, with the latest spyware, virus and malware definition, and are able to counter the constantly evolving nature of threats that present themselves to organisations. It also allows organisations with limited cash flow to choose between running security as an operational expense or a capital expense depending on budgets, and since MSSP is in essence an outsourced service allows customers to incorporate security as a monthly fee rather than a large annual expense.

“While this type of service is beginning to emerge in South Africa, it is currently fairly basic, and mainly offered by integrators or resellers of connectivity and not at the service provider level itself,” says Martin Tassev, Managing Director of Loophold Security Distribution. “This follows the trend that emerged in Europe and the USA, where these services began in the same way and only in the last few have years moved to large regional (formerly national) telco’s and service providers.”

When looking for a MSSP, there are several key factors that need to be considered. Flexibility with licensing and billing is very important so that service providers can tailor this to meet the needs of the customer, and scalability is a must in order to meet the needs of organisations of all sizes on the same platform.

“Central management should also be a feature, but these tools need to be flexible and able to integrate into existing management platforms to deliver seamless integration of the security solution into existing environments so that this additional layer can be easily accommodated. Reporting is also a vital component of a managed service, since it is the only tangible aspect of the service that the customer will have and is a way of showing the value derived from the service,” says Honnay.

“Reports provide a graphic overview of data including the threats blocked, bandwidth used and websites frequented by users, as an example, and the information derived from these reports can be used to discover correlations between events such as websites visited and increased threats or increased bandwidth usage, which enables more intelligent network and connectivity cost management,” Tassev adds.

MSSP at its heart should be about providing innovative technology that meets the needs of customers today and in the future through delivery methods that suit their business and budgets. By incorporating intelligent reporting on aspects such as bandwidth usage, organisations are empowered to drill down per user, per application and so on to prioritise bandwidth and ensure that existing resources are used effectively. Using MSSP, not only can SMEs in particular access enterprise class security for up to date protection, resources can also be optimised for improved efficiency across the network.