Cisco Pushes E-mail Security into the Cloud

Cisco is planning to offer a new set of managed, hosted and hybrid e-mail security services to give businesses more choice in defending their networks. Cisco's approach puts them on a path similar to the one vendors such as Symantec and Google are walking.

Cisco Systems has hopped aboard the cloud security train with a set of new managed, hosted and hybrid e-mail security services.

In April, Cisco will launch Cisco IronPort E-mail Security services with the goal of giving businesses the opportunity to choose from three different approaches to e-mail security - managed, hosted or a combination of on-premise and cloud-based security.

"Our strategy is one of really making sure we're able to provide that best of breed threat operations and threat intelligence in every form factor," said Keith Valory, director of product management. "We don't want the customer to have to compromise in terms of their threat prevention."

Hence the birth of Cisco IronPort Hosted E-mail Security, Hybrid Hosted E-mail Security and Managed E-mail Security services. But with other vendors already pushing security in the cloud, Cisco may face challenges in its latest move.

"Cisco's new hosted e-mail security offering is a good offering, but doesn't do enough to distinguish them from the other cloud offerings," said Forrester Research analyst Chenxi Wang. "The one thing that is different is that they offer a nice hybrid model, which allows people to keep certain filtering tasks, such as outbound e-mail filtering, on premise."

Other vendors such as Symantec and Google have been playing in the cloud for years, she noted, and already have an established presence.

"They have very nice visibility across e-mail and Web," Wang said. "Cisco's Web visibility is not as extensive as some of the competitors. Will this win customers away from Symantec, Google, Trend and others? Perhaps, but I don't see that as a given."

Still, Cisco is moving full steam ahead. With the Cisco IronPort Hosted E-mail Security Solution, protection is delivered via a dedicated e-mail infrastructure hosted in a network of Cisco data centers. Unlike other hosted e-mail security offerings, the Cisco IronPort offering has no shared infrastructure to offer organizations maximum uptime while simultaneously protecting sensitive data, Cisco officials said.

The hybrid model, meanwhile, allows customers to control inbound traffic in the cloud, while outbound controls such as data loss prevention and encryption can be handled on site. Cisco is also offering a managed service staffed by Cisco e-mail security experts who remotely manage and monitor customers' e-mail infrastructure.

"Monitoring e-mail is just one task in an ever-growing list of IT issues we confront on a daily basis," said Richard Rothschild, senior IT director at TiVo, in a statement. "The Cisco IronPort Managed E-mail Security service combines the best of the traditional outsourced hosted model while keeping the appliances on my network."