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 CenterEditor 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 eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack.