Postini and SAAS Still a Great Idea

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2008-02-05 Print this article Print

Yes, the services offered by Postini, now under the Google brand, are a great idea. What they do for Google Apps is beyond me.

I've long been a fan of software as a service, and specifically of hosted e-mail security, and even more specifically of Postini. It's just the right way to do this sort of thing.

Now Postini, acquired about six months ago by Google, is offering a new set of security services bundles. They're good stuff, just as Postini's offerings were always good stuff. In fact, that's basically what they are. The new bundles are, more than anything else, the rebranding of Postini services as "Google Message" services, "powered by Postini."

It's not clear that there's anything more going on; perhaps some of the secret sauce in Gmail's spam filtering has been incorporated into Google Message Filtering and/or Google Message Security, but these are enterprise services, not meant for the Gmail crowd.

There's a lot of talk going around about this being an opportunity to upsell Google Apps to Postini enterprise customers, but I can't imagine why. There's no particular advantage to using Google Apps that's special to Google Message services, or vice versa.

Of course, there are other companies in the e-mail security services business, including Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services (formerly FrontBridge) and MessageLabs. I know from my own testing experience that it's hard to compare them in terms of the quality of their services. Richi Jennings of Ferris Research confirms that it's also hard to compare their pricing on like services. My own guess is that they all do a good job with security.

The outsourcing advantages are just so big I have to repeat them: All the e-mail that is blocked doesn't even make it to your network. It's blocked before it even gets to your perimeter. The service therefore also provides protection against DDoS (distributed denial of service) to a degree. And if your own e-mail services go down, at least some of the outsourced services will queue your e-mail up until you're ready to receive it; I know Postini-sorry, make that Google Message Security-does this.

And remember, as Jennings reminds me, "Google didn't buy Postini for the spam and virus filtering. Google already had that covered, arguably better than Postini did. The real need was for their archiving, e-discovery and compliance services." This is where the real Google Apps connection comes in, as those capabilities get integrated into Google Apps.

With respect to compliance and e-discovery, these services protect you against yourself to a degree, and it's not hard to see some companies wanting more flexibility than that, but it's a hard argument to make out loud. I think, rather, that using an outside service, especially one managed by a large and credible company like Google, adds credibility to your own efforts to comply with your legal obligations.

Am I right? I'm not a lawyer, and it's too soon to tell. But it's not too soon to know that outsourced e-mail security is a good buy.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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