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Survey: Symantec, Cisco and McAfee most trusted in security

Firms that didn't rate as high in a recent Yankee Group survey said the results are based more on brand recognition than a company's effectiveness.

Symantec, Cisco and McAfee are the most trusted security product vendors in the United States, Yankee Group concluded...

after surveying 400 enterprises. Firms ranking lower in the poll believe the questioning was overly broad and the answers based more on brand recognition than a company's effectiveness.

The Boston research firm refused to provide a detailed copy to, saying it only releases full survey results to clients. A Yankee Group press release said that "43% of the 400 U.S. enterprises surveyed named Symantec as one of their top three most trusted, followed closely by Cisco and its very strong brand recognition. Network Associates (now McAfee) received the third highest [number of] votes in the field of 20."

Phebe Waterfield, security solutions and services analyst for Yankee Group, conducted the survey in June, asking: "Who are your most trusted security product vendors?" and "Who are your most trusted security service providers?"

"Survey results show that firewalls combined with antivirus are the two most highly valued security solutions," Waterfield said. "However, the lower ranking of firewall vendors Check Point, SonicWall and NetScreen compared to antivirus and security players Cisco, Network Associates (McAfee) and Symantec demonstrates that vendors need to do more than network security to gain an enterprise's trust."

Based on the responses, Waterfield concluded the top 10 most trusted security product vendors are Symantec Corp., Cisco Systems, McAfee Inc., IBM Corp., Microsoft, VeriSign Inc., RSA Security, Oracle Corp., Check Point Software Technologies and 3Com Corp. But when asked to name the most trusted security service providers, she found the top 10 to be Symantec, Cisco, VeriSign, IBM, Lucent Technologies, Computer Associates Inc., EDS, AT&T, Internet Security Systems Inc. and Unisys Corp.

Waterfield acknowledged results are open to interpretation. "Unfortunately, users do not give us explanations for their answers [and] survey results must always be interpreted," she said. "I interpret these results into security brand recognition and do not attribute them to product breadth, quality or competitive standing."

Some results surprised her. "Checkpoint, a well established security brand, barely made the top 10… trailing behind less 'security branded' vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft," she said. "Network equipment vendors, including Siemens, 3Com, Nortel and Lucent, achieved surprisingly high rankings."

SonicWall Inc. ranked 17 on the security product vendors list. Douglas Brockett, the company's vice president and general manager, questioned Waterfield's definition of services but was pleased to have made the top 20.

"We are pleasantly surprised to be included in an enterprise services survey because our main focus until very recently has been in the SMB space," Brockett said. "Perhaps the inclusion reflects the fact that we have large deployments in major distributed networks such as Rent-A-Center and Ace Hardware."

A Check Point spokeswoman was more critical of the questioning and called the press release "misleading."

She said it failed to communicate "that there are in fact two separate surveys in question, one on vendors and another on service providers of choice. Both asked who is the most trusted. It is worded in such a way that the responder will provide the company he knows best in terms of brand. This has nothing to do with the quality of service that Check Point is providing. This survey is merely the results of a popularity vote."

Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst and IT advisor for Nashua, N.H.-based research firm Illuminata Inc., said Waterfield's conclusions appear reasonable. He said that Cisco's high ranking is not surprising because the company "has spent a lot of time and energy upleveling from 'access to anything by anyone anytime they want it'-- which is the source of the threat across the network -- to 'secure access' or 'privacy-protected access' or 'authenticated access only.'"

He acknowledged that in surveys, "it really, really matters who you ask in a survey, what you ask them specifically and how you ask them. Things like the order of potential answers on a multi-choice question, and whether you randomize that order across multiple surveys [or just list everyone in alphabetical order] can skew results."

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