The newest version of Symantec's core security system for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) will be a cloud application, though firms that favor traditional software won't be left behind.
Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition 2013 will replace Endpoint Protection.cloud, Symantec's relatively young alternative to its on-premises software. The company will continue to sell and support SBE 12.1, the previous version, for SMBs that prefer the software-and-server model. SBE 2013 streamlines Symantec's SMB portfolio, according to product marketing director Andrew Singer, who noted that SBE 2013 offers customers the option to manage their deployment onsite rather than online. Those customers will be able to move to the cloud version whenever they choose, free of charge.
"When they're ready to move to the cloud they can do so with no additional cost--they simply transition from on-premises management to cloud-based management," Singer said in an interview. "We're future-proofing their investment in endpoint security."
If it sounds like a hedge, it is--and it's probably a smart strategy and for a company that's still best-known for its traditional security software, even as it has built significant business in the backup and storage market and related categories.
"Symantec has seen flat revenue in a growing market and needs to take advantage of this trend in cloud services," said Techaisle CEO Anurag Agrawal via email interview. Agrawal, whose research firm focuses on SMBs, noted that the number of cloud applications in use in SMB environments has more than doubled in the past two years. Security is one of the most widely deployed categories; around 60% of SMBs using cloud have deployed security applications online, according to Techaisle.
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Agrawal noted that the channel--the third-party providers that many smaller companies rely upon for IT--has not been able to keep up with demand for cloud-based security services. Security ranked second to industry-specific applications on Techaisle's list of cloud services where SMB demand outstrips what the channel can currently deliver.
SBE 2013 bears similar traits to its on-premises predecessors. It's still about stopping malware and other threats, after all. It includes Symantec's behavioral technologies like Insight and SONAR. Symantec is also pledging full Windows 8 support and compatibility out of the gate. New to SBE 2013 is a USB device control feature that lets administrators better view and block the transfer of data to and from the corporate network to employee flash drives and the like. Like many cloud applications, Symantec touts fast deployment--it takes a matter of minutes to get SBE 2013 up and running, the company says.
In the big picture, perhaps the most critical feature appears behind the scenes. It's a unified console that enables managed service providers (MSPs) and other external IT administrators to manage both SBE 2013 and Symantec's Backup Exec.cloud from a single interface.
Singer declined to comment on the partner issue, but Stephen Banbury, Symantec's VP of worldwide SMB channel and alliance marketing, said in a follow-up email: "Symantec is committed to delivering consistency to our partners, and giving our partners greater control and flexibility to achieve their goals. By offering new information protection products for the SMB market, like [SBE 2013], we are able to provide our partners with more opportunity to do business with us, while enabling them to reach their growth targets and demonstrate increased value to their SMB customers."
Techaisle's Agrawal notes that Symantec's not alone in its challenges: "All software companies are wrestling with or implementing cloud services strategies," he said. Backup and storage services are a big opportunity for Symantec beyond its core security business; the partner management console could be a key to keeping everyone happy. MSPs and other partners won't have to deal with a fragmented deployments and support. SMBs meanwhile get something many of them clamor for: IT simplicity.
"If [Symantec] can do this successfully, it should be a win for both small businesses and channel partners," Agrawal said. "The devil is in the details, and if they fail to bring both of these to the market successfully they risk losing credibility in their core security market."