IBM rolls out security apps for SMBs

Hoping to address the two most pressing concerns among SMBs, namely security and compliance, IBM on Tuesday is rolling out a series of bundled applications and managed services offerings to be part of its Express line of offerings.

The first offering, called the IBM Express Managed Security Services for e-Mail Security, is a service aimed primarily at midsize businesses to help them reduce security risks associated with e-mail that comes in over the Internet. The service scans a smaller company's e-mail off-site for spam, viruses, and other potentially dangerous material before it is allowed into their local network.

"This is a service for those companies that don't want to handle this function themselves. I think of it like a car wash where the mail goes in dirty and comes out clean on the other end," said Elaine Case, marketing director at IBM's Global Small and Medium Business.

The new service is designed to also help smaller companies better comply with those regulations set down by HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley that demand businesses have fortified data protection and retrieval capabilities. The service will be priced on a per-seat per-month basis depending on the level of service needed. Pricing for between 250 and 499 seats and if all four available services are chosen, is US$4.25 per seat per month.

A second offering, called eServer OpenPower Network e-Mail Security Express, focuses on those companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees to thwart malicious spam and network-based viruses on an on-demand basis. Company officials contend the offering is well suited for those who already have in place an e-mail security product but who remain worried about breaches from viruses and worms.

The offering consists of IBM's eServer OpenPower 710 system with Linux, and the MPP (Message Processing Platform), the latter developed by Message Partners, an IBM business partner. MPP is an e-mail security application that features built-in archiving capabilities and works with most popular networks but does not require users to replace existing e-mail servers, company officials claimed.

For small companies the bundled product costs US$4,995 or US$144 per month for 36 months when leased, while for midsize companies the price is $7,950 or $237 per month when leased for 36 months.

IBM also released its Express Desktop Management Services, to be made available through its network of business partners, which automates several tasks commonly associated with managing PCs. For a fixed fee the new service offers a range of functions including migration, remote IT administration, image management automatic software updates, and password resets. The service also includes backup and restore, virus protection, and hardware and application protection features to block unauthorized access to mission-critical data, company officials said.

Pricing for the service starts at US$1,800 to US$2,000 per unit base with expansion keys costing US$18 or US$19 for each PC being supported.

Big Blue unveiled a no-cost option called Asset Recovery Solution, which offers users disk cleaning as part of its larger asset recovery service. The service is available through IBM Global Financing.

Justifying its redoubled efforts around security among smaller companies, IBM officials point to a recent survey it conducted showing that about 70 per cent of the C-level executives at companies with more than 100 employees said data security sat atop their list of compliance concerns. The survey results also showed that four out of 10 SMBs plan to upgrade and acquire new applications and infrastructure products over the short term.

IBM's Case added that based on the company's own research and that of industry researchers, spending on security products and services among SMBs is expected to reach US$45 billion in 2006, up dramatically from the US$1.8 billion they spent in 2003.

"We have done a lot of research in this area and it [security and compliance] is one of the highest areas of concern for SMBs. But we believe they must first set in place a secure infrastructure before they move into areas like compliance," Case said.

SMBs can get more details about the offering by going to IBM's Web site.