|Issue:||Latin America IV 2000|
|Topic:||Security Blanket Services|
|Title:||President and CEO|
|Organisation:||Internet Security Systems|
Telecommunications providers around the world face unique challenges as Internet and wireless technologies become standard business services. The growth of wireless communications has coupled with the gradual breakup of telecommunications monopolies to create opportunities for competition where none existed before. At the same time, the business demand for simple, fast and economical broadband Internet access requires extensive investment in infrastructure at exactly the same time that these new competitive pressures limit the potential for revenue growth and profitability. The result is predictable. Telecommunications providers are looking to the Internet and to bundled business service offerings to find new ways to gain and retain customers and generate revenue.
These efforts centre on two key areas: the need to cover the investments necessary to remain competitive in a rapidly changing environment, and a desire to leverage current infrastructure to maximise the return on existing investment. Bundled business programmes, ranging from business planning e-commerce hosting and managed remote services, have increasingly become the market differentiators that best help achieve these aims. Information security services have become the clincher for many telcos whose customers desperately need advanced, Internet-driven business services that protect the privacy, integrity and availability of critical online information resources. Latin American telecommunications companies are no exception. However, the Latin American market faces its own unique challenges as it moves from highly regulated or government operated telecom companies to a more open market structure. The last three years has seen a gradual evolution from government monopoly to some degree of deregulation in a wide range of countries. Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Puerto Rico are all deregulated areas of South America with Costa Rica as an exception. This new business climatepromotes improved quality of service, and has stabilised the cost of service for customers and businesses alike in these regions. North American telcos, experienced survivors of the deregulated United States market, now see Latin America as a high growth opportunity. AT&T Latin America opened up a branch called First Com nine months ago in Colombia and Peru. This subsidiary offers high bandwidth and data services. BellSouth, a major regional telco based in Atlanta, Georgia, has also invested heavily in Latin America. BellSouth has more than four years’ experience in this region, and owns subsidiary operations covering both wired and wireless offerings in Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. Nextel is another American wireless company that has expanded its service range to Peru, Argentina and Mexico. Finally, Latin American service providers themselves no longer see the need to stay within their national boundaries. Spain’s Telefonica has expanded aggressively, becoming one of the largest telcos in Latin America. With all these players making simultaneous, aggressive moves into a previously underdeveloped market, product and service differentiation becomes critical for any telco looking to gain leverage and market share. Add the benefits and pressures of free trade agreements and global economics, and Latin American telcos that can help their customers generate more business with greater efficiency and enhanced reliability at lower cost will have a definite edge on the competition. The Economies of Managed Security Services (Source: Internet Security Systems). Information security management is shaping up as a key battleground as telcos develop advanced business services. Any business that uses computer networks for internal operations or the Internet for international reach has valuable information assets that are potentially open to attack or misuse. Protecting the privacy, availability and integrity of this information is a critical business necessity. Since telcos provide the basic infrastructure for almost all Internet traffic and many internal networks, a powerful, flexible, remotely managed security service bundle is a very attractive strategy for telcos to create highly profitable value-added service for new and existing customers. Telcos are uniquely positioned to provide remotely managed security services. Since telephony is basic to any business, nearly every business already has an established relationship with a telecommunications provider. These offerings range from basic phone service to sophisticated PBX units, video conferencing, high-speed Internet connections and more. Telecom carriers, therefore, have long experience matching technology to business needs. The more aggressive Latin America players are counting on a customer service orientation to greatly increase customer trust in their offerings versus the competition’s. By bundling remote security management into telephony service, these carriers can use their existing investment in network infrastructure to create new offerings to retain customers, while simultaneously providing a powerful incentive for businesses to switch from their current carriers. So, what are bundled managed security services? These offerings provide basic information security infrastructure for any business or organisation without the internal resources or regulatory imperative to build an in-house solution. For customers, they mean that mission-critical internal data resources, including proprietary information, customer information, sales plans and other vital information resources are protected against sabotage, attack or misuse. These offerings centre on a core set of services. Most managed security service programmes cover firewalls (both standard and high-availability), intrusion detection and response, antivirus, Virtual Private Network (VPN) public key infrastructure (PKI), security assessment and World Wide Web content filtering. Remote service management allows clients to, in effect, pay for only the services they need, with built-in scalability and limited offloading of liability for a security failure. The cost savings to the customer can be significant. There is, of course, one very significant catch to turning any telco into a managed security services player. Telcos, by definition, understand telephony best. Information security is a whole other ball game, one with expensive barriers to entry and where a proven track record is key to building market share. Customers won’t trust any service where the vendor, in effect, is learning on the job. As a result, most telcos look to partner with an experienced managed security services provider who can reduce both time to market and the cost of building the services programme. “This proof of experience is critical, since any failure in service puts the telcos name and reputation on the line.” Many security management companies tout themselves as managed security provisioners. Nevertheless, building an offering base and actually delivering a complete, comprehensive and scalable solution at the size required by a telco are two very different objectives. The best provisioners will have an established track record providing managed security services to both large, Global 2000 enterprise organisations and to telcos. This proof of experience is critical, since any failure in service puts the telcos name and reputation on the line. Next, a strong services partner will either train telco staff or provide outsourced business consulting to ensure that each services customer receives a product that best matches what that organisation needs. This process can be as simple as a remote security assessment testing the client’s network perimeter for potential weaknesses, or as complex and thorough as an on-site, standards-based (usually British Standard 7799) test of all network resources. Additionally, the partner must provide basic marketing materials that help the telco explain and sell remote security management to its customer base. Although this step might sound obvious, security cuts to the core of any business. Success in the market is absolutely predicated on communicating the ability to understand a customer’s security management needs and to craft an appropriate, scalable solution. Finally, no security management solution is 100 per cent effective, 100 per cent of the time. Comprehensive technical support and emergency response services provide that critical extra layer of protection which ensures that customers minimise damage to the maximum extent possible when a security event occurs. E-commerce insurability assessments and special security service bundles designed in conjunction with leading insurance brokers and underwriters bring an additional layer of reassurance to the table. One very successful example of this type of relationship is Brazil’s Embratel. Embratel is a subsidiary of MCI Worldcom providing comprehensive advanced Internet and telecommunications services. Embratel boasts an 80 per cent domestic market share in Brazil and the largest Internet backbone and telecommunications network in Latin America. In spite of this success, the organisation recognises that low-cost, easily used business services are one of its key strategic initiatives for protecting their existing customer base and moving aggressively into new markets. Security management, provided transparently through an experienced, well-respected third party, turns a complicated process beyond the expertise of many Embratel customers into a simple, profitable revenue source that benefits customer, Embratel and the managed services provider alike. This relationship has turned out to be a natural and comfort-able partnership for all parties. Remote managed information security services provide a key revenue source and market differentiator for telecommunications in Latin America looking for new methods to secure customer loyalty, gain market share and compete in newly deregulated markets. Many customers already depend on the Internet to streamline business operations and open new opportunities. Conclusion Managed security services bring cost-effective information protection to this audience through an existing, known and trusted telephony vendor. Properly implemented through a partnership with an experienced managed security services partner, these value-added offerings create a winning situation for telcos, managed security provisioners and customers alike.