2011: Year of the cloud

While malware continues to plague the IT industry, it is cloud computing that will be the new hype next year as more enterprises get onboard, says Astaro.
Written by Tyler Thia, Contributor

Data leak and malware continue to be the top security threats that enterprises have to deal with next year, said Norbert Kiss, vice president of Astaro in Asia.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, he explained that going forward, IT managers have to look beyond point solutions and instead adopt enterprise-wide solutions to protect infrastructure and data on a more holistic level.

"Enterprises today should be looking at security from a very high level. Don't just address your spam problem, because it's a very small part of the total security issue. A lot of companies using point solutions are now looking at expanding these services," Kiss observed.

With malware threats increasing exponentially, he said enterprises will need solutions that can offer protection on that level. It is no longer about protecting data and infrastructure against traditional viruses as the current technology for that is very strong, he added.

Having launched in Asia recently and in Singapore slightly over a year back, Kiss said the company's innovative offerings such as RED (remote Ethernet device), as well as its commitment to open source collaboration with users, have allowed the UTM (unified threat management) player to capture around 2,000 clients in the region.

While the vendor continues to offer a variety of hardware solutions, it is the cloud offerings, especially the private cloud, which are garnering more interest from enterprises.

"The trend is shifting now. Up to one or two years ago, enterprises were still investing in their own [IT] infrastructure. But now, they're seeing the benefits of cloud computing through applications such as salesforce.com. The uptake [of these applications] is significant," the executive said.

He added that in the near future, products such as a private cloud for a particular industry can no only be easily integrated into a business' operations, but also comply with local legislation and be of keen interest to many industry players.

For now, IT managers are still on the learning curve to know more about cloud benefits, such as where the data is being held.

Like its competitors, Astaro's cloud solutions are charged on a per-user basis, which makes it more affordable for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

Kiss said: "Cloud offers substantially more value for the customer, and that's a big thing for the midrange market, which is that the way security is charged will change dramatically."

But, in order to provide more support for its customers, Astaro will first need to fix a weak link in its operation. The executive admitted that with its only full-scale support office in Germany, the vendor has not been able to respond quickly to clients' security concerns due to time differences. Some of its local partners have also experienced difficulty providing solutions on the spot, said Kiss.

The executive said these two issues are most critical to the business now. "We probably underestimated the support requirements and now we're catching up a little bit. Threats are moving so fast, we need to train our partners quickly enough. We're also setting up a competency support center here and it should be ready by Q1 next year," he revealed.

The executive also said that Astaro is in talks with the National University of Singapore and tertiary institutions in the region, which will send their students to train as interns with four security experts from Germany. These experts are "guys who coded the product from the beginning", according to Kiss.

The company also actively participates in educational forums and hacking conferences to create greater threat awareness.

Alongside training initiatives, the security vendor is discussing with the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore on providing solutions to primary and secondary school students. 

"Singapore has good IT security policies in schools, but elsewhere in the region, the level of protection that school children get is very poor. By providing each student with a computer and Internet access with no security, this not only opens the network to threats, but also to inappropriate content," he explained.

While no collaboration has been inked, the executive said private schools in Singapore as well as MOE have shown immense interest in the program.

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