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Webroot to Launch Enterprise Web Filtering Service

Content filtering will be marketed alongside email management service

LAS VEGAS -- Interop 2008 -- If you're having trouble getting users to follow your company's Web surfing policies, maybe it's time to do something radical: Hand the problem to somebody else.

Webroot Software Inc., which over the past year has made a name for itself delivering email security management as a service, is demonstrating a new service that will let companies do enterprise Web filtering on an outsourced basis.

The service, which is scheduled to be rolled out in June, allows companies to route Internet traffic through Webroot data centers, where malicious Web threats and unwanted content are blocked before they reach the corporate network. It replaces content filtering software or appliances that can be costly and difficult to manage, Webroot says.

"What we're doing is letting companies say yes or no to groups of Websites, based on who the user is," says Chris Benham, vice president of corporate marketing at Webroot. "The company can not only set policy, but we can actually help them enforce it."

The new content filtering service breaks Websites into more than 70 categories, and then allows the enterprise to decide how it wants to handle them -- block, allow, or restrict -- according to the end user's identity.

Approximately 30 to 40 percent of Internet use in the workplace is unrelated to the business, according to research firm IDC. A study by the Department of Trade and Industry indicates that more than half (52 percent) of organizations are experiencing misuse of Internet resources, mostly in the form of accessing inappropriate sites (41 percent) and excessive Web surfing (36 percent).

"So you basically have two choices: You can allow everything, which puts you at risk and hurts productivity, or you can add software or appliances," which creates administrative and cost issues, Benham says.

Webroot hopes to deliver content filtering in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, as it has done successfully with email monitoring and filtering. "So you can limit access to shopping sites -- you can block it all day or you can set a time range in which the user can or can't access those sites," Benham says.

The company can set surfing policy based on groups they define themselves, Webroot says. While one group of users may have broad access to a wide variety of sites, other high-risk groups may have very narrow Web access, Webroot says.

Companies can also work with Webroot to add specific URLs that should be blocked or allowed, according to their specific needs, Webroot says.

Benham acknowledges that it may be an uphill battle to convince some enterprises to outsource their security policy enforcement. "For small businesses, it's pretty attractive, because they don't have the infrastructure and skill sets to do this sort of filtering. Some large enterprises are looking for us to be a belt that's attached to the suspenders they already have in place to control this type of access."

The content filtering service has not been named or priced as yet. Webroot is planning a broad announcement on the new service in June, officials say.

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