Have mergers, acquisitions and changes in vendors’ strategies benefited cloud email and web security customers?

Part 1 – changes in the industry

The email and web security industry has seen many changes over the past years, especially in the cloud or SaaS market. Many vendors in this space started by offering email anti-malware and anti-spam services. They then added email content control and web anti-malware and URL filtering.

Some vendors invested heavily, built their own multi-tenant infrastructure, patented their technology and owned intellectual property, whilst others simply purchased and deployed enterprise equipment into datacenters and managed it on behalf of their customers. Some were more serious about security than others, offering multiple signature-based AV engines as well as proprietary protection technologies and elements of data loss prevention.

Around the mid 2000s the market became quite crowded, with a number of large cloud email and web security vendors, some mid-sized ones and lots of smaller, local players. In the second half of the decade Microsoft acquired Frontbridge, Google acquired Postini and Symantec acquired MessageLabs. Many mid-sized and smaller players were also acquired, sometimes by companies that did not understand the SaaS business model and how to make it work.

Did all this change help or hinder organisations looking to deploy SaaS email and web security? In some cases the acquirers invested and integrated technologies from their wider on-premises portfolios, expanding functionality of their new SaaS divisions to the benefit of their customers. In others however, it had a serious detrimental impact as vendors, unable to get to grips with the SaaS business model, changed strategy. Some even pulled out of the market and reverted back to their core competency. Others didn’t want to continue investing, integrated the acquired technologies into their own services and made them end of life, forcing customers to migrate to a different service – essentially the same upheaval as changing to a new provider.

The most far reaching impact however is likely to be related to the business focus of the acquirer. Many customers originally, in good faith, signed up to services from a focused security vendor. These services may now be delivered by a vendor whose primary business is email archiving, productivity applications, network equipment or even search. The question for these customers is whether they consider “just good enough” security to be appropriate for their organisation.  

In the next part of this blog on 21st May we will examine the threat landscape, what it takes to keep ahead of the bad guys and the implications of not having the best possible email and web security.

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