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1/25/2011
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Intermedia Introduces Policy-Based Email Encryption

The addition to the cloud provider's hosted Exchange service is aimed at SMBs struggling to standardize email rules and compliance at the user level.

Cloud provider Intermedia on Tuesday added policy-based email encryption to its hosted Exchange service, with an eye on smaller businesses dealing with data security challenges and complex government regulations.

The company has enabled user-level rules on its platform for several years, but Intermedia chief operating officer Jonathon McCormick said those have shortcomings, such as thornier upkeep and a wider margin for human error.

"Being able to do it at a domain level, with a very rich policy-based rules engine, really gives you a lot more control over what you're doing," to manage email, McCormick said, whether an organization is motivated by regulatory compliance or other business reasons.

Policy-based encryption was something Intermedia's current customers had been asking for, according to McCormick, often prompted by federal and state laws that govern their privacy practices. Those include both long-standing regulations such as HIPAA, as well as new or pending legislation at the state level, such as the data privacy law enacted in Massachusetts last year.

"It's definitely building momentum and we hear more and more about it from both our clients and our partners," McCormick said.

Policy-based encryption isn't just a toy with which to play Big Brother, though. Rather, it allows owners and IT personnel to manage and protect outbound email at an organizational level -- rather than user-by-user -- for everything from legal compliance to business development purposes. McCormick noted that the feature goes beyond encryption, and said it might aptly be described as "policy-based mail routing." A firm could globally flag and review all outbound emails pertaining to a particular deal before the messages leave the network, for example.

The option allows for more behavioral types of policy-making, too: A manager can set a rule that excludes all profanities from all outbound email, for example. Likewise, an administrator can apply company-wide rules for attachments -- the tool supports most popular file formats.

Intermedia gears its hosted Exchange platform for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), with customers ranging from three to 1,000 user accounts. The company has roughly 300,000 mailboxes on its platform, with an average client size today of between 13 and 15 users. The policy-based encryption add-on will cost $2.50 per user, per month.

"As Software as a Service has become a readily adopted mode of operation, our target base has moved up," McCormick said, adding that the company is likely to more aggressively pursue customers with between 25 to 250 users going forward.

McCormick -- though he certainly has a vested interest in the segment -- is bullish in general about SMBs in 2011 and beyond.

"It's a really nice time for the SMB marketplace," McCormick said. "They have access to technology tools like they have never had before, and it's really changing very rapidly the way all of these SMBs are doing business."

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