Symantec took its initial step into the software-as-a-service market on April 17, introducing its maiden set of hosted applications for small and medium-sized businesses.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said that the launch of its Online Backup Service, which provides outsourced data storage and disaster recovery services to SMB customers, is merely the first piece in a wider set of offerings it will introduce dubbed Symantec Protection Network, which will eventually include a full range of hosted security tools.
Hosted applications -- also known as programs delivered via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model --- aim to help companies eliminate many of the overhead expenses and hassles commonly associated with consuming traditional on-premise products.
By offloading maintenance and care of the security applications to the vendor, who hosts the systems online, companies no longer have to worry about keeping their various products up-to-date with the latest patches or virus signatures, or worry as much about responding to emerging attacks, Symantec executives said.
Much as Salesforce.com has revolutionized the manner in which many companies utilize customer relationship management (CRM) applications with its hosted sales force automation tools, Symantec executives said the security company has big ideas for SaaS, even if it is starting out with its smallest customers first.
Smaller companies with limited IT resources are the best fit for the tools initially, but larger customers will eventually begin moving over, executives said.
"The SMB market is the right place for us to start because there are a lot of companies who haven't been able to afford some of these applications before," said Jeff Hausman, senior director of product management for Symantec's Security Response and Managed Security Services business units. "But we believe that someday enterprises will consume many security applications in this manner too."
The executive said that explaining the strengths of hosted applications to customers isn't a challenging process anymore.
"There has been great adoption of other business applications, such as Salesforce.com, over the last several years and people are realizing the benefits of deploying and using technology in this way," Hausman said.
Over the next year, the software maker plans to add new services such as hosted anti-malware and network security applications to Symantec Protection Network, which is ideally suited for business with less than 1,000 employees. However, the security services are not limited in any way from use by larger organizations, Hausman said.
All the various services the company adds to the system will be controlled via a centralized online portal, making management of the tools even easier, according to the firm.
Symantec isn't the first security company to enter the SaaS market, as a number of smaller providers are already offering outsourced security services, including Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Qualys, a vulnerability auditing specialist with a long list of well-known enterprise customers.
While providing outsourced security is different than supporting CRM tools, in that any outage in the services could prove extremely dangerous for customers, Hausman said the success of Salesforce, Qualys, and other SaaS companies has proven the model does not introduce additional risks.