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The impact of vendors involved with filtering web and email traffic.

ATEC members here is an interesting debate.  The impact of inadequate filtering or screening web and email traffic lands fairly and squarely on the board’s lap when it goes wrong.  Our phrase is let only the good come into your network.

As a pre-cursor, I have been involved with the original developers of the 3-D engine that powers most of the web filtering vendors for eight years embedded on their code.  It is a sophisticated system that recognises illicit content and blocks it entering the corporate and general user environment.  It has been instrumental in increasing productivity and preventing legal issues.  Of course the anti-malware and intrusion protection aspect of these products is almost a foregone conclusion as integral part of these vendor’s offers.  Mimecast, Forcepoint, Bluecoat, Proofpoint, McAfee, Cisco, Check Point, Palo Alto and many more are on our radar. We do our analysis with virtual teams from industry leading resellers that are formal members of the Audent consortium.

We are not sponsored by the vendors, yet use industry leading analysis and quadrants to start our investigations for each client.

A market leader can become an underdog over night.  Debates about SAAS vs on premise also come up because SAAS based algorithms are often protecting the entire client base instead of the individual user.  The market is plagued by algorithms that replicate incorrect manual behaviour.  We have had one vendor that took three months to unblock a critical file in transfer due to an algorithm that protected the core processing impact in their SAAS hosted environment.  They could not find the algorithm.  There is automation and common sense at question.

As an unbiased IT partner and trusted advisory board, Audent has been tracking the performance of the major vendors in the web and email filtering markets.  In our usual fashion, when a client is reviewing or embarking on the subject of filtering, we analyse the market leaders and also some of the newer contenders.

We have covered the Rolls Royce of filtering which is in fact a combination of two vendors:  Bluecoat for web and Proofpoint for email.  These vendors are the smaller contenders that specialise in the field, compared to a larger vendors that have filtering diluted as part of thousands of other IT products.  We have real life experience of the support quality of the market leaders.  We have seen organisations acquired, remove support staff and see quality drop.  When a url or an email is blocked as a false positive, the impact on the client is catastrophic and often treated as a severity one.  For example it may be a proposal or an RFP from a potential customer that you are looking to do business with or a research paper that needs to meet deadlines.

We have seen domos from most of the vendors, we have experienced their sales techniques.  In many situations a client reviews our analysis: picks a bake off list, we get accurate quotes, runs POCs and then asks us to interface with the vendor to remove the barrage of sales calls and requests for meetings about features with up sell that are irrelevant.

We start engagements with clients by asking them what is important to them, build an essential criteria list, price being one of them and send it to the vendors to score them on their ability to deliver.  This helps us quickly determine a shortlist ready for bake off.  The vendors are responsive to us because they know that we have a good ratio to close the business.  The difference with us is that you would have experienced an unbiased, trusted advisory process with an IT partner that is focussed on your requirements first.  Our philosophy is that technology is secondary to client requirement and here at Audent, we demonstrate that across the full spectrum of our 200 plus vendors.  We don’t mention vendor’s by name in these blogs because to err is human and we all learn from our mistakes.

Our question to the ATEC members is:  what are your experiences with vendors pushing upsell when you don’t need the functionality?