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29 May 2023

Brand protection to figure high in firms’ IT security budget

Symantec says companies do not want to create fear around their brands. (JOSEPH J CAPELLAN)

By Nancy Sudheer

Brand protection will be the top priority of large corporations while planning their IT security budget, according to a top executive of cyber security company Symantec.

Kevin Issac, regional director of Middle East and North Africa, said: “Brand protection is a must within the security and datacentre space, especially if you are from the financial sector. You do not want the confidence of your customers to be broken, especially since there is enough fear from the global scenario.

“These organisations do not want to create fear around their brands especially when security risks are increasing, with customers using services based on virtualisation.”

Issac said that the uptake will not only be in security products but also in services.

“Symantec works closely with customers on service offerings, improving security posture especially from the knockdown effect of the global crisis.”

As new technologies like virtualisation create new security risks, the top three priorities for a chief information officer are reduction of costs, maintaining operational efficiency and competitive advantage.

“This is applicable across the board, such as banks and telecom companies. They face the same challenges on the security front.”

Symantec has been pushing its security services business in the region for some time, which is a bigger part of its business regionally and globally compared to the retail product portfolio.

“Retail is only a quarter of our business globally and is dependent on customers going to the store and buying a security product. In today’s global downturn retail sales have taken a hit, which is visible when you walk down Dubai’s computer street and see all the hardware piled up. The services business is mature globally, with a mix of products and services that are not going to change,” said Issac.

Even though retail is not a focus of the company, he foresees the retail scenario changing as transactions move online.

“Buying technology has moved online to a large extent, especially in countries where bandwidths are not expensive and technologies like 3G are available.

“Historically, in this region customers have faced challenges with the internet as telecom networks open up, improving internet speed and moving from dial-up to ADSL. Symantec has had a partnership with etisalat for five years back to protect their customers. Security has become a top priority.”

Though security services are at a nascent stage in the region, Symantec has been offering consulting services to customers on security, storage and datacentres across the Middle East.

Recently, it provided consulting services to a Saudi Arabia-based company on the storage front.

“After our consultation, the customer realised there was 15TB free storage space on their network, which was an eye-opener as they were about to make a huge investment for additional storage.

“Another bank based in the region saved 25 per cent of their storage and 50 per cent on their operational costs. As cutting down cost is top priority, Symantec has positioned itself to provide such services,” said Issac.

In fact, the company has seen a shift in customer requirements as they opt for outsourcing their security services.

“Banks are looking at improving efficiencies by opting for managed services. These kinds of organisations earlier had 50 people taking care of security but now it is easier to outsource it.”

Customers opt for outsourced services from Symantec to monitor the network traffic, provide firewalls and protect access to the customers’ data or files.

“We offer a lot of monitoring services which later gets escalated to data services. Globally, customers prefer that we manage everything and not just the network. The trend is picking up in big businesses as it bridges cost.

“When an IT team has to spend $20 million (Dh73.4m) on a server infrastructure and if a third party does it on a monthly basis it cuts down the cost and brings flexibility. In the Middle East it will take another two to three years for such services to take off,” Isaac said.