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Comparing cheap security products and appliances to costly appliances

I've noticed that a number of niche vendors are starting to offer low-cost security appliances that bundle features like email scanning, encryption and more. What are some of the features they offer and under what circumstances should an enterprise consider them, especially vs. a bigger do-everything appliance?

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In the security business, the pendulum swings back and forth. Then back and forth again. The funny thing is that many of these security appliances were in the market before the bigger do-everything gear mentioned. It seems that the question is focused on purpose-built email security appliances, but almost all of the security markets are undergoing a similar transition.

Specifically for email security, most of the appliances out there focus on inbound email scanning (i.e. antispam) and some rudimentary outbound scanning for compliance purposes (such as to stop personal or credit card data from leaking). Some also include email encryption capabilities to protect data that can't be sent in the clear.

For enterprises, deciding on an appliance has a lot to do with scale and granularity. Many of the lower-end appliances will not be able to scale up to enterprise traffic dynamics, so test the specific environment to make sure the device can scale adequately. Secondly, if there are detailed policies or data formats the company needs to deal with, then a higher-end product may be in order.

Finally, as opposed to trying to figure out what class of appliance to implement, consider a managed service to make scalability and uptime the service provider's responsibility.

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This was first published in October 2008

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