To Serve and Protect: Let Someone Else Run Your Security Software
Security Supersite Editor Larry Seltzer has long believed that network-based services are the future of many security capabilities. One day, he's sure, he'll be right.
For how many of you out there is running a firewallor running IT in generalcentral to your business? I bet the percentage is a small one. Nevertheless, you have to do these things in order to protect and facilitate the things you really do for a living.
This is why I believe in services for most IT functions. By "services," I mean that a function should be outsourced to some outside firm. Web hosting is a good and obvious example of a service. You could run your Web site on your own systems, but wheres the sense in that? Hosting firms have great economies of scale when it comes to running large numbers of customer sites on a single box as well as managing farms of Web and other application servers. As a result, its cheaper and better to outsource it.
In the case of security, I think there are also economies of scale, at least in many cases. Years ago (I think it was 1999), I wrote a story predicting that ISP-managed services were the future of antivirus and some firewall functions, at least for consumers. If spam had been so big a problem back then, I would have included it, too. For the most part my predictions have been flops, but I still think I had good arguments:
- Economies of scale: An outsourcing firm can throw a few large servers at a problem and support large numbers of users.
- Timeliness: One of the key characteristics of good antivirus, firewall and spam-protection support is having and implementing the latest attack information. Its a lot easier for a service to update its server network than for a company like Symantec to push out updates to millions of users.
- Performance: In some cases, especially spam filtering, outsourcing means youll cut the amount of traffic entering your network, leaving only the parts you want. At the very least, this move will improve bandwidth. I wonder how much hardware and bandwidth money could be saved by using managed security services.
- Backup: Service providers make guarantees of backup, archive and disaster recovery.
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