So many customers are struggling with the content identification and policy formulation elements of DLP (data loss prevention) that vendor Reconnex has launched a new appliance designed to help companies manage that work.
Reconnex officials admit that many potential customers of its DLP technologies are holding off on buying based on challenges they face in getting a grip on just how their data is being used, by whom, and how those interactions affect their overall business processes.
In many other cases, the company said, customers that have already purchased DLP technologies are taking as long as several years to engage the products' enforcement mechanisms because they are so worried about the potential for interrupting crucial business operations.
Understanding the scope and usage of their data and then creating and tuning the rules needed to detect and govern its use has become such an onerous process in and of itself that it is slowing the overall DLP market, Reconnex executives said.
By launching an appliance that promises to allow companies to address those aspects of their data security projects before they jump headlong into DLP, at a significantly lower cost, the company contends that it is creating a new market niche while removing obstacles to further adoption of its data leakage technologies.
"Customers were telling us that they're not ready for DLP because they don't know the data context and they can't create rules if they don't understand where they are in this process, so that's why we built the technology," said Faizel Lakhani, vice president of products and marketing at Reconnex. "DLP vendors don't want to talk about this problem because it is a major impediment to the market in general, but this is the biggest challenge around this technology, and we thought this was the best way to help people move forward."
Sold for $20,000, a fraction of the $200,000 that Lakhani estimated as the cost of a typical enterprise DLP installation, the appliance, dubbed Data Loss Profiler, specifically promises to automatically index and classify all content leaving a customer's network, allowing users to get a better grasp on how their information is being handled.
By looking closely at all the network interactions transpiring across a customer's systems, the vendor said, the product allows users to more rapidly figure out how and where they need to enforce and improve data security policies.
In mapping the context within which their data is living and being transmitted, Lakhani said, companies can figure out quickly whether they even need a more robust DLP system altogether.
One of the biggest problems with DLP technologies is that the pre-set enforcement rules integrated into the products can be hard to match up with customers' real world data processes, he said.
"Every organization has data leakage problems, but they all have unique data issues. The struggle is that even when they buy DLP, they don't have people to sit around all the time and tune the enforcement rules," Lakhani said. "Customers have been asking us, 'Why should we spend the time and money to deploy DLP without knowing specifically what it can do?' -- we think this product answers that question in a straightforward turnkey model."
In addition to giving customers a head start on their data leakage projects, Reconnex is also offering to apply the price of Profiler to the cost of its enterprise DLP package if companies decide to move forward after employing the new appliance. If they do decide to expand their initiative, a company that has put the Profiler device in place merely needs to license the additional DLP module, the company said.
At least one end-user said that the idea of such a pre-DLP technology could appeal to customers trying to decide if they can afford to, or need to use, broader data loss technologies.
Andre Gold, head of security and risk management at financial services giant ING, said that technology leaders are frequently having a tough time selling the cost of DLP to other business executives, with many others having trouble making the products they have already purchased work effectively in their own environments.
Gold said that he found DLP technologies too complex and time-consuming to consider when he first encountered the tools several years ago while working in a similar role at Continental Airlines.
As he evaluates the technologies today, having the ability to map out data process before getting involved in a far-ranging DLP initiative is something that many others in his position should find valuable, he said.
"The whole configuration aspect has been the hindrance for the adoption of DLP in most organizations," said Gold. "At companies like ING that have been built through mergers and acquisitions, we have data in a variety of different systems. It makes no sense going back and mining all that to create maps by hand; it's too hard, and it simply won't happen."
In addition to proving useful in understanding what his company might need to do with DLP, such a pre-DLP device, according to Gold, could be utilized for other tasks, including how effective its employee education programs are and how its overall risk management plans are working. "First and foremost, you can try educational programs around data handling and address education at a fraction of cost of installing DLP," he said.
Other industry watchers agreed that the Profiler device addresses one of the biggest problems related to today's DLP technologies.
"Reconnex has figured out the weakest link in data loss prevention, which is creating and tuning rules to detect and protect confidential data on the network," Larry Ponemon, chairman of research firm the Ponemon Institute, said in a statement. "With Profiler, customers can learn where their sensitive information is without any upfront knowledge of what they need to protect."