Sophos Enters Small Business Security Market

U.K.-based security firm Sophos on Monday launched a security suite for the small business market, a competitive space it's entering for the first time.

April 20, 2004

3 Min Read
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U.K.-based security firm Sophos on Monday launched a security suite for the small business market, a space it's entering for the first time, and one dominated by competitors such as Symantec.

Sophos' Small Business Suite -- a combination of a message gateway and a managed desktop edition of the company's anti-virus software -- is aimed at small businesses of under 100 employees that lack a dedicated IT staff, said Chris Kraft, Sophos' vice president of marketing.

"Sophos has always been strong in the large- and middle-sized market, but Small Business Suite appeals to the unique needs of small business," said Kraft, "where IT expertise is non-existent or rationed."

"Small businesses are really feeling the pain of spam and viruses, and moving into a buy mode, much like mid- and large-sized companies started to do years ago," claimed Kraft.

The gateway software, dubbed PureMessage Small Business Edition, filters mail at the Exchange gateway -- PureMessage supports Exchange 2000 and later -- for both malicious code and spam, and updates itself automatically by pinging the Sophos definition servers on a schedule the administrator sets.Basic filtering rules can be applied to deny receipt of certain file attachment types -- such as the .exe, .pif, and .scr attachments that attackers load with virus and worm payloads -- and the gateway will publish a digest of all quarantined messages to end users, and let them retrieve those labeled as spam themselves. "The gateway allows end users to grab them themselves so there's no impact on the limited IT resources of these small businesses," said Kraft.

To complement this gateway-deployed defense, the suite also includes Sophos Anti-Virus Small Business Edition to protect Windows and Mac OS X clients and servers against non-e-mailed exploits, such as blended attacks that also infect shared network resources.

A control module allows non-technical administrators to remotely deploy the anti-virus software, configure and monitor updates, and set elementary policies.

"When the Control Centre's installed, it discovers systems on the network that use Windows or Mac OS X, then pushes down the installation files and future updates from the Sophos network," said Kraft. Policies can be set and enforced to, for instance, require a client system to have the latest updates before connecting to the network. If it lacks the current virus definitions, the client downloads them from Sophos.

Kraft claimed that Sophos, with its expertise in defending networks in large- and mid-sized organizations, is better able to bring that experience to the small business than competitors which started at the consumer end of the security spectrum and refocused on the enterprise. He might not have been naming names, but he was talking about rivals such as Symantec and McAfee."We can deliver protection to small business in a way that's unique -- without all the bells and whistles small companies don't need -- because we're assuming the firm has a network, as opposed to competitors who started in the consumer market and built network layers on top of that," said Kraft.

He has his work cut out for him. Symantec, for instance, has been aggressively pursuing sales to small businesses, most recently with a low-priced security gateway appliance that includes a firewall, intrusion detection, content filtering, and VPN capabilities.

Kraft knows there's work for Sophos to do. "The two parts of the Suite complement each other, but in the course of this year we'll make them even more complementary, to make a more seamless security suite," he said.

The price for the Sophos Small Business Suite starts at $445 annually for a five-seat license, with prices escalating from there. A 50-seat license, for instance, will run $2,750 a year, with a 100-seat license costing $5,130.

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