APAC hungry for cloud-based SaaS

With easy deployment, countries in the region are adopting SaaS faster than their western counterparts, say Symantec executives.

Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) security is a "major driving force", according to a Symantec executive.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, vice president of Symantec SaaS in Asia Pacific and Japan, Bjorn Engelhardt, explained that countries in the region have "immense appetite" for SaaS, and demand has grown three to four times faster than software itself. One reason for this is "simplicity of deployment", he added.

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Symantec hosted services, explained that in emerging markets especially, many have gone straight to mobile deployment. He foresees that in time to come, smaller countries may even bypass data centers totally and leapfrog straight to cloud.

The vendor is hence working to capitalize on this demand by raising its investment an additional 70-plus percent as well as manpower in its SaaS initiatives. Symantec also revealed that its customer base for this platform has increased by 50 percent to 32,000 clients.

Trollope explained that the cloud-based SaaS solution, aimed at helping small and medium-sized business (SMBs) better manage security, is a more cost-effective yet hassle-free way of ensuring that all users are free of attacks.

"With software licenses, every product you purchase is a project. There's a need to install software on desktops as well as a management console to the servers," explained the executive. "While the cost may be roughly the same, with software licenses you will have to purchase additional hardware, which is the management console."

Another cost issue that managers may face lies with traditional software security as companies have to preselect a number of users and pay upfront for a year's subscription, whereas with the SaaS offering, companies have the flexibility of paying on a per-user basis.

Trollope added that with the newly launched desktop hosted services, once all end-users are connected, managers can monitor and set policies to further strengthen the defense against attacks. "This further enhances collaboration [among] Web users on the same platform, which is lacking in today's IT world."

The executive likened the collaboration to a shopping experience on Amazon.com. "You are able to see recommendations and similar products that 'like-minded' customers have purchased. With the SaaS service, users can exchange information on threats and other security trends," said Trollope.

With social networking sites facing an increasing number of attacks, Engelhardt said IT managers can also set up parameters to disable certain functions, and this works for e-mail exchanges as well.

"You may want to disable the exchange of credit card information or other sensitive data for e-mail messages, for example," Trollope explained.  Enterprise customers can also access 14 apps via Symantec's SaaS platform such as policy encryption and e-mail archiving.

Already launched worldwide in English-speaking countries, he also revealed that enterprises are charged based on the region and country, with China and Taiwan next in the pipeline.

Dell Services has also announced its partnership with the vendor to offer e-mail security services under the cloud-based SaaS platform to Dell's customers.

While cloud solutions have seen a greater take-up rate in this region compared with the U.S. and Europe, security threats are borderless and increasing at a significant speed.

Trollope said attacks arising from social networking sites will continue to dominate in the near future, as criminals go up the learning curve with popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. With the exponential rise in popularity and users, these "bad guys" have an even greater incentive to craft platform-specific attacks, he said.

Engelhardt concurred, warning that attacks today have become highly sophisticated as criminals are able to amass a great deal of personal information from social networking sites. They then proceed to craft e-mail messages to trick victims into giving out sensitive data, making them believe it is someone they know.