Google updates pricing for Postini apps

Prices for many of the Postini service packages have been cut in an effort to bring more customers aboard, particularly SMBs

Google announced new pricing for its Postini hosted e-mail security and compliance management package on Tuesday in hopes of pushing more customers to consider a move to the SaaS (software as a service) offering.

Since adding expanded message filtering, encryption, and archiving tools to Postini's traditional anti-spam services in Oct. 2007 -- and parceling the same features into its Google Apps Premier hosted productivity suite -- the company has been able to convince a significant number of customers to begin working with the SaaS applications, according to Scott Petry, founder and CTO of Postini, which Google acquired for $625 million last July.

However, in a move to make the tools more attractive for use in heterogeneous IT environments, and to encourage both enterprise and smaller customers to consider the offering as a viable alternative to traditional on-premise technologies, the company has revamped the product packaging and cut its overall pricing.

In addition to pushing pricing for its flagship hosted anti-spam filtering service to $3 per user per year, Google-Postini has moved the price for its hosted virus detection, outbound processing, and content policy management services to $12 per user per year.

For its compliance-oriented message data archiving, retention, and e-discovery services, which previously cost $100 per user per year, the firm has drastically cut pricing to $25 per year with the option to extend e-mail archiving at a cost of $10 for every additional 12 months of storage.

"We've got a healthy number of our existing customers running the newer content management, archiving, and discovery services, but we think that by adjusting pricing, we can get even more people get off their existing infrastructure and get onto managed services offered by Google," Petry said. "We won't be an acquisition that withers and dies; we're focused on expanding our reach and integrating the product line."

The combined package of services is meant to compete not only with Postini's traditional rivals, including mail filtering capabilities offered by MessageLabs and Microsoft, but also with security and compliance products marketed by industry stalwarts like Symantec, Petry contends.

A customer might have to buy Symantec's stand-alone anti-spam, anti-virus, messaging security, DLP (data leakage prevention), and policy management technologies to gain the same collection of filtering, archiving, and compliance automation capabilities offered in the Google-Postini SaaS package, according to the executive.

By driving down pricing and tying the tools tightly together, Google should be able to convince some large customers to make a shift to SaaS and be able to help smaller companies gain access to tools they may not have been able to afford previously, he said.

"More than a battle against any of these other guys, this is about getting more companies off of the traditional model of deploying software and appliances to address these problems," Petry said. "We think that time is on our side, and more people than ever are ready to move to thin, in-the-cloud services; we're not trying to get everyone converted overnight, but we have set of technologies to help those who are ready augment their current infrastructure."

Google plays up Postini's security benefits
As with other security SaaS services, Google-Postini also maintains that its expanding set of message filtering tools can offer customers a unique advantage in terms of protection via the company's ability to see new threats arriving on the networks through its individual users, then leverage intelligence about any emerging threats across its entire client base.

Petry stressed that, in addition to being integrated directly with Google's Apps technologies, the company remains dedicated to providing its messaging security services to users of other vendor's e-mail and collaboration infrastructure, including Microsoft's Exchange platform and IBM's Lotus Notes architecture.

Some industry watchers may still question the abilities of hosted services providers such as Google-Postini to handle complex security tasks such as DLP, but the executive maintains that the SaaS model actually gives his company a major advantage.

"This is about the democratization of these tools, making them cheaper and allowing more people to use them and protect their investments in existing appliances," he said. "Financial services companies have spent billions trying to do DLP, but now other companies without the same level of internal sophistication or budget can get us for less; we can minimize the amount of hardware necessary for DLP and allow them to use their existing appliances to integrate with us via API."

Google-Postini partners said that it may still be early in the game in terms of selling the message filtering, archiving, and discovery tools to enterprises, but they contend that SMB customers should view the pricing move positively.

Joe Vaccone, president of Excel Micro, which resells Google-Postini to other services providers that cater largely to SMBs, said that many customers are both looking for new features to address issues such as compliance and to move away from other e-mail filtering vendors who may be getting squeezed from the market.

"A lot of the older anti-spam vendors are getting clobbered and looking to exit, so I think we might see a lot of companies coming over to Postini because they can get a lot of functionality at a single price point that they may not have been able to obtain before," said Vaccone. "We already see a lot of people looking for new alternatives in this space based on the performance of what they've been using."

Vaccone said that Excel Micro's reseller customers are also seeing more of their own clients inquire about Google's Apps platform as licenses to older products, namely Microsoft's Exchange and Office technologies, run out. "We do see some migration to Google Apps going on and believe it will continue," he said.

Industry analysts agreed that Google-Postini's revamped pricing and integrated SaaS tools should find favor with SMBs first but said that the work necessary to convince enterprises to buy in will likely take longer.

The Google-Postini marriage carries a lot of credibility in terms of the involved technologies, but large customers will need to be convinced that the company is serious about growing its enterprise footprint, said Rebecca Wettemann, analyst with Nucleus Research.

"Google-Postini is definitely looking to grow into the enterprise, and spam and e-mail security services like this are ideal for delivery on-demand, but there remains a real challenge for them to gain the trust of enterprises and make them confident that they are a serious player," Wettemann said.

"The more they can highlight references to existing Postini customers who have moved into the new services, or point to new enterprise customers, the easier it should become," she said. "But they need to show how these innovations they claim deliver value, that it's more than Google throwing cash at some interesting technologies."