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Content filtering helps snub spyware

ServGate partners with SurfControl adding content filtering to the company's modular multi-function security device.

ServGate, Inc. today added content filtering to its EdgeForce multi-function network security devices, a move that helps small and medium businesses get more security functionality from a single device.

Content filtering lets businesses block certain Web sites, filter out spyware and monitor employee Internet usage.

ServGate developed a modular security platform by joining forces with industry leaders such as Network Associates, Inc., for antivirus and antispam software and now Cheshire, UK-based SurfControl plc for content filtering. Customers

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choose the features they want to use and pay for each separately. Content filtering costs $895 for up to 100 users; $2,295 for 250 to 1,000 users.

ServGate's security platform now includes a fire wall, spam filtering, antivirus scanning, virtual private network, Web caching, content filtering and other functions.

The market for such content filtering products has grown in recent years. According to 2003 report from International Data Corp., content filtering today is a $480 million market. The research firm expects it to grow to $893 million by 2007.

SurfControl also provides it technology to 13 other vendors including Nokia, IBM, Novell Inc. and Radware Inc.

"Content filtering is a hot area right now," said Jim Hurley, vice president of research at the Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

One of the latest reasons network administrators are behind the adoption of content filtering is the increasing prevalence of spyware.

That was one of the reasons that Henninger Media Services, an Arlington, Va.-based video post production company decided to test the content filtering application. PC's at the 100-person firm became so congested with spyware they were unusable, said Robert McNeal, the company's network administrator.

It's a complaint that ServGate is hearing from more and more of its customers, said Dario Zamarian, vice president of corporate products and strategy at ServGate, Milpitas, Calif.

Companies are also increasingly concerned with employees viewing pornography at work, setting up the potential for workplace harassment, Hurley said.

Employees at Henninger have also been found viewing pornography at work, McNeal said. With ServGate, he said he can simply block inappropriate sites.

Like many small businesses, Henninger has a small IT staff. McNeal and one other person run the entire shop. In that environment, McNeal said a single appliance is helpful because it does not take a lot of man power to mange.

However, the product -- and even content filtering itself -- is not without its quirks.

Hurly said that most content filtering programs still churn out false positives, blocking sites that should not be blocked and allowing in content that should be blocked. He recommends that businesses use the software to block individual sites rather than entire categories.

McNeal said that he has been a bit frustrated by the lack of choice of anti-virus software. ServGate has partners with Network Associates' McAfee for its virus screening feature. McNeal said the he prefers Symantec's service. About once a month, he said, a virus gets past the ServGate box only to be caught by a user's desktop Symantec software.

"It's annoying when I get that call that they [users] have an anti virus error message. That should not happen," he said.

Nonetheless, overall McNeal said that the multifunction approach of ServGate's product has been a help in his tightly staffed IT shop.

"It has definitely been a huge benefit," he said.

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