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Hardware Edges Out Software For Network Security

Britestream Networks, which commissioned the report, contends that's a reversal from the past.

Slightly more IT managers prefer using hardware to secure their networks than software, according to a new research report commissioned by security hardware vendor Britestream Networks Inc. The survey, based on online interviews with more than 300 IT professionals working with companies with $30 million or more in annual revenue, was conducted by independent market-research firm Q&A Research.

Among the significant findings: 54% of respondents prefer a hardware-based product--a hardware appliance or an embedded feature in network hardware equipment--over software when asked how they would prefer to deploy network security in their organization. While this may seem like an insignificant majority, Britestream contends that it's a reversal from the past, when companies preferred software because it was easier and faster to develop. Companies now want the ease of management and high performance associated with hardware, Britestream says.

"Security in software is very slow, and people underestimate the impact that has on their network," says Mike Salas, VP of marketing for Britestream. Hardware is more easily managed and maintained than software, he says, and hardware is more secure. "People find ways to hack into software."

He points to recent hardware product introductions by Symantec Corp. and Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.--traditionally software vendors--as an indication that the industry is aware of the growing preference for boxes among customers.

Andrew Singer, manager of market intelligence at Check Point, says customers want proven security systems but their needs vary. While he acknowledges that his company has seen strong sales from the Nokia Firewall/VPN appliance, which includes Check Point's VPN-1 Pro software, he's also seeing a trend in the proliferation of open, low-cost Intel servers in the enterprise. That's an environment, he says, that offers increasing opportunities to software vendors.

It's hardly unusual for vendors to commission reports and for those reports to end up validating their business models. But some industry analysts note similar findings in related markets. The January 2005 Messaging Technology Report, issued by The Radicati Group, a technology market-research firm, predicts, "E-mail security appliances will be on the top of many organizations' shopping list for 2005. Products that can address [security and policy] needs with a 'plug it in and forget about it' approach will lead the market."

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