Businesses looking to make their IT departments more efficient and cost-effective have seized hold of the idea of “software as a service”–using software that is delivered remotely instead of hosted on in-house servers. Recognizing this trend, several computer-security companies have begun offering their products as services. Today, McAfee released a new version of a suite of security products called Total Protection Service, as part of its own push toward “security as a service.”
Yet the security industry’s shift toward delivering software from “the cloud” highlights some of the difficulties involved in transitioning to this approach. While experts agree that the newer approach can certainly increase efficiency and bring technical benefits, some also warn that not all security products work well when delivered this way. Since companies often disagree over what it means to provide software as a service, the shift can also create confusion for potential business customers looking to evaluate their options.
McAfee’s Total Protection Service suite operates remotely, with the exception of a few small pieces of software installed on individual employees’ computers. The product protects computers against Web and e-mail threats, monitors inbound and outbound network traffic, and analyzes devices connected to a corporate network. It also assesses a company’s website for potential vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit.
McAfee’s upgrade to Total Protection Service is a logical expansion of what the company was already doing, says Natalie Lambert, a security analyst for Forrester Research. Lambert says that other companies are likely to follow suit, by offering products that shift as much as possible into the cloud in order to appeal to clients looking to lower costs. For now, she notes, McAfee’s traditional products still have more functionality than what it’s offering as a service; in the future, she expects little difference.
Panda Security, based in Spain, is another a company that offers security products delivered as a service. Josu Franco, the company’s corporate customer unit director, says the approach can save customers money, particularly when employees work from a variety of locations, and can streamline the process of managing software and keeping it up to date. He adds, however, that fully protecting a business still means installing some software on the devices being protected. Moving security completely in the cloud, while also protecting the end user’s device, “is not a viable option today.”