The SMB Case for Sending Security Skyward

Recent announcements by Panda Security for cloud-based PC anti-virus tools, as well as a Managed Office Protection solution, highlight how “security as a service” is growing in importance and efficiency.

Here to help us better understand how cloud-delivered security tools can improve how PCs are protected across the spectrum of end users, businesses, resellers and managed-service providers, we’re joined by Phil Wainewright, independent analyst, director of Procullux Ventures, and a ZDNet SaaS blogger. We’re also joined by Josu Franco, director of the business customer unit at Panda Security.

Listen to the podcast (32:22 minutes).

Dana Gardner: Let’s start, Josu, with looking at the big picture. The general state of PC security, the SaaS (Software as a Servcie) model, and the dire economy are, for many organizations, conspiring to make a cloud-based solution more appropriate, perhaps now more than ever. Tell us why a cloud-based solution approach to PC security is a timely approach to this problem.

Josu Franco: There are two basic problems that we’re trying to solve here, problems which have increased lately. One is the level of cybercrime. There are lots and lots of new attacks coming out every day. We’re seeing more and more malware come into our labs. On any given day, we’re seeing approximately 30,000 new malware samples that we didn’t know about the day before. That’s one of the problems.

The second problem that we’re trying to solve for companies is the complexity of managing the security. You have systems with more mobility. You have vectors for attack — in other words, ways in which a system can be infected. If you combine that with the usage of more and more devices in the networks, that combination makes it very difficult for administrators to really be on top of the security mechanisms they need to watch.

In order to address the first problem, the levels of cybercrime, we believe that the best approach that we, as an industry, need to take is an approach that is sustainable over time. We need to be able to address these rising levels of malware in the future. We found the best approach is to move processing power into the cloud. In other words, we need to be able to process more and more malware automatically in our labs. That’s the part of cloud computing that we’re doing.

In order to address the second problem, we believe that the best approach for most companies is via management solutions that are easier to administer, more convenient, and less costly for the administrators and for the companies.

Gardner: Now, Phil, we’ve seen this approach of moving out toward the Web for services — the more centralized approach to a single instance of an application, the ability to manage complexity better through a centralized cloud-based approach across other applications. It seems like a natural evolution to have PC security now move to a SaaS model. Does that make sense from your observations?

Phil Wainewright: It certainly does. To be honest, I’ve never really understood why people wanted to tackle Web-based malware in an on-premise model, because it just doesn’t make any sense at all.

The attacks are coming from the Web. The intelligence about the attacks obviously needs to be centralized in the Web. It needs to be gathering information about what’s happening to clients and to instances all around the Web, and across the globe these days. To have some kind of batch process, whereby your malware protection on your PC is something that gets updated every week or even every day, is just not fast enough, because the malware attacks are going to take advantage of those times when your protection is not up-to-date.

Really making sure that the protection is up-to-date with the latest intelligence and is able to react quickly to new threats as they appear means that you’ve go to have that managed in the center, and the central management has got to be able to update the PCs and other devices around the edge as soon as they’ve got new information.

Gardner: So, the architectural approach of moving more back to the cloud, where it probably belongs, at least certainly from an architectural and a timeliness or a real-time reaction perspective, makes great sense. But, in doing this, we’re also offloading a tremendous burden from the client in terms of these large agents, tremendous demand on the processing of this client, the need to move large files around, drag on the networks, labor for moving around the organization, and physically getting to these machines. It seems almost blatantly obvious that we need to change this model. Do you agree, Josu?

Franco: I do. One point that I want to make, though, is that when we refer to SaaS, we use the term to refer to the management console of the security solutions. So, SaaS for us is an interface for the administrator, it’s an interface obviously based on the Web.

When we refer to cloud computing, it refers to our capacity to process larger and larger volumes of malware automatically, so that our users are going to be better protected. Ideally, cloud computing and SaaS should be going together, but that’s going to take a little bit of time, although, in our case at least, all of our solutions align into those two concepts. We’ve been moving towards that. The latest announcements that we’ve made about this product for consumers go certainly into that direction.

I just want to make clear that SaaS for me is one thing. Cloud computing is a different thing. They need to work together, but as a concept we should not confuse the terms.

Wainewright: That’s very important, Dana. One of the key things that people misunderstand about notions of cloud computing and SaaS is this idea that everything gets sucked up into the network and you don’t do anything on the client anymore.

That’s actually a rather primitive way of looking at the SaaS and cloud spectrum, because the client itself is part of the cloud. It’s a device that interacts with other peers in the Web environment, and it’s got processing power and local resources that you need to take advantage of.

The key thing is striking the right balance between what you do on the client and what you do in the cloud, and also being cognizant of where people are at in terms of their overall installed infrastructure and what works best in terms of what they’ve got at the moment and what their roadmap is for future migration.

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: Panda sponsored this podcast.

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