More and more businesses are looking for a good way to protect themselves against the litany of harmful viruses, spyware, and other malware that comes from the web. In my article Web & Spyware Defense I cover some of the technologies that are effective at defending your business from web-based threats. Here, I’d like to focus on the one of the products we believe balances effectiveness with cost, the best.
McAfee SaaS Web Protection is a service provided by McAfee (formerly MX Logic) that effectively “scrubs” incoming and outgoing web traffic to ensure web threats don’t get in or out of your network. It also provides options for limiting access to certain sites and can generate some valuable reports on web activity (by user, device, site, etc.). Additionally, it includes a simple, straight forward user interface and has a price point under $3 per device per month.
How it works
The architecture of the solution is very simple: your company’s Internet/web traffic is routed through McAfee SaaS’ servers and scrubbed for harmful software. Basically, it is a standard, cloud-based solution.
We have deployed this solution for a number of our clients and it simply works. There is no substitution for seeing how a product or service works in an actual production environment and this is one that lives up to the hype.
Note: Cloud solutions are often incredibly valuable solutions, but like any technology, they aren’t for every business. At ITP we always recommend reviewing technology solutions within the context of your specific business goals, culture, processes and people. Of course, if you need some help with that we’ve got some great people here at ITP that can help.
So let’s start with a bold statement: If you’re not managing your Internet traffic you’re throwing money out the window. A pretty strong statement, I know, but hear me out before you pass judgment…
For most small & medium-sized businesses the two areas of their technology that cost the most are:
- Managing and supporting desktops
- Internal IT staff members and/or IT consulting
Spyware, which is more malicious and prevalent than ever these days, affects both the functionality of your desktops and the efficiency of your IT staff or consultant. Hence, it’s a hard hit on your bottom line. In fact, I believe that if most businesses ran the numbers on what spyware really costs them, they would be mortified. The good news is that there are technologies available that do a great job protecting you from spyware and other threats (see my article, Web & Spyware Defense for more). The bad news is that it takes more than just your antivirus software.
But keep in mind that the management of your Internet traffic can do much more than defend against incoming threats – it can also help you increase productivity and reduce HR risks.
Remember when you were deciding whether spam protection was necessary for your business? Well, managing your Internet traffic is the same discussion, only it’s a more costly one.
There are few IT issues that are more pervasive or costly for businesses these days than spyware. Spyware not only affects the system it infects, but also tries to distribute itself to other systems. Additionally, it can be incredibly difficult to “clean” the infected system, often requiring the system to be rebuilt. Worse yet, standard methods of protection often fall short because users can easily circumvent them and click on a link or advertisement that invites spyware into their system by accident. Much like spam defense solutions, deployment of onsite devices have become more popular, and to some extent those devices are effective. But the significant upfront costs and the maintenance required to support the devices have both become detractors from these solutions. Consequently, cloud-based solutions have been growing in popularity.
In essence cloud-based web defense solutions provide:
- Protection against harmful links, sites, and spyware
- Granular control of the websites staff members can access
- Integrated reporting showing web activity for staff members
- Low-cost, zero maintenance solution
As always, this solution should be reviewed in context of your specific business needs and goals, but cloud-based protection against spyware have proven to be quite effective. And with the additional control you get for managing your outgoing web traffic, cloud-based spyware protection is quite a powerful solution.
Spyware is everywhere and it’s costing businesses and organizations a ton of money in lost productivity alone. Traditional methods of combating spyware (such as installing software on your systems) have proven mostly effective. The problem is that mostly effective isn’t really good enough. So what other options are there? Currently, I believe the two most viable options currently are:
- Deploy a device onsite
- Subscribe to a service
Devices like Barricuda Networks Web Defense device
and others work by filtering web traffic through their device which resides at your office between your firewall and your LAN (traditionally). It functions as a filter both for incoming and outgoing traffic and is quote robust from a configuration and reporting standpoint.
- Robust functionality
- Granular reporting
- Large upfront cost
- Annual maintenance costs
- Allows “malicious” traffic to utilize your bandwidth
- Need to maintain hardware
Service-based protection such as McAfee’s Web Protection Service works in a similar fashion to the onsite protection model except that the “filtering” occurs offsite. Basically, your web traffic is routed through your service-provider’s systems. In this model you don’t need to purchase hardware or maintain it – you just redirect your web traffic through their systems.
- Easy to set up
- Very low initial cost
- Stops malicious traffic before it gets to your network
- No hardware maintenance or upgrade costs
- Highly effective
- Recurring monthly cost
- Adequate reporting functionality
With these options, the days of combating spyware with just onsite software are probably coming to an end. Don’t get me wrong, onsite software is still necessary, but in all probability, adding another layer of defense is probably a solid, cost-effective decision at this point.