Google has launched a range of web-based security applications for email filtering, encryption and archiving.
The Google software-as-a-service (SaaS) security technology has been developed through Postini, the security company it acquired last July for $625m (£317m).
The basic version of the tech — called Google Message Filtering — costs £1.50 per user, per year and includes Postini's filtering system to block inbound spam and malware.
The next version up is Google Message Security, which costs slightly more, at £6 per user, but adds virus detection and outbound email processing along with content policy management.
The cost rises to £12.50 per user for the top version — Google Message Discovery — which also includes a year's worth of message-data archiving, retention and search.
Dave Armstrong, European Google product and marketing manager, told ZDNet.co.uk's sister site, silicon.com: "This ties in very much to the rapid integration of the Postini products and people into the Google Enterprise mould. We're building on our initial acquisition of Postini. What we're doing [is] bringing these security and compliance offerings to as wide an audience as possible by simplifying the way in which they're purchased."
The tech works with any email system, including Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise.
Armstrong explained that, with an existing network of 14 million users using Google and Postini tech, updates can be handled much more efficiently.
He said: "Not only are we able to be more reactive to threats and make them available across all of our employees, but also we're able to do that instantaneously, whereas existing internal infrastructures may struggle to do that."
Google is billing the tech as something that can also help companies respond to compliance issues; for example, filtering outbound messages to avoid sensitive information leaving corporate firewalls.
But Armstrong admitted these applications aren't enough on their own. He said: "I think it will always complement existing technologies."
The online security applications launched on Tuesday are not meant to supplant Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), the company's collaborative online business applications offering, as GAPE already has most of the Postini security functionalities built in, said Armstrong.
Peter Lorant, Google's European head of channels, told ZDNet.co.uk on Monday that Google Message Filtering, Security and Discovery were primarily aimed at small businesses.
"These solutions are cost-effective for enterprises of all sizes, but especially for small and medium-sized businesses," Lorant claimed.
Google admitted that small businesses could bring down total cost of ownership for email security by using the new suite instead of GAPE. While GAPE allows businesses to use features not available with the free Google Apps package, such as APIs to integrate GAPE with business software, it costs $50 (£25) per user, per year. Using standalone SaaS products, such as Trend Micro ScanMail for Exchange, brings the total cost of ownership down to approximately $19 (£9.68) per user, per year, according to Trend Micro figures. However, Google Message Security costs £6 per user, per year, Google said.
The GAPE service-level agreement (SLA) also promises that Gmail will be available 99.9 percent of the time, a guarantee not included in the free package. Peter Lorant said that he could not immediately comment on the new Google SaaS suite email-availability guarantees, as different security software and appliance SLAs would interact in different ways depending on the customer.
"The [three new] products have three new pricing structures," said Lorant. "We can offer à la carte services per customer."
Jon Collins, service director for analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, told ZDNet.co.uk that GAPE had not had a great amount of success amongst small businesses.
"Premier Edition hasn't sold half as well [to small businesses] as Google wanted it to," said Collins. "I do wonder whether that catalysed [Google to offer the new SaaS suite]."
Collins said that, for small businesses, the most obvious tactic for ensuring message security was to buy online services. Such services offer benefits in terms of scalability, as dedicated providers can bring costs down. However, any small business must be aware of customer data-protection issues, Collins added.
"From a data-protection perspective, I would be wondering if inbound email were run through US servers [such as Google's]," said Collins. "The [US] Patriot Act could allow monitoring of such data. From a hosting perspective, are the people you're getting services from subject to the same data-protection laws you are?"