US web filtering company, 8e6 Technologies, has opened up for business in the UK, with its sights set on disaffected customers and resellers of SurfControl.
Cheshire-based SurfControl was acquired last October by its rival Websense, which pledged to support the SurfControl web filtering products up to 2010, but said it would not be selling or further developing them.
8e6 and others in the field are looking to exploit potential discontent among SurfControl customers, and are aiming to win them over when their licences come up for renewal. They are also trying to recruit resellers from both Websense and SurfControl who, they claim, will struggle to make sufficient margins from the combined market.
8e6, which has been operating in the US for more than 12 years, offers a web filtering appliance that sits out of the line of traffic and sniffs the Web packets as they pass through the network. According to the company's head of marketing, Eric Lundbohm, its main strength lies in its reporting facilities and online dashboard that provide a clear picture of network activity.
To break into the UK market, 8e6 Technologies has appointed security specialist Wick Hill as its sole distributor, with responsibility for recruiting, training and supporting resellers. Wick Hill managing director Ian Kilpatrick said: "Companies who chose to go with SurfControl will probably have rejected Websense in the past, because they were the two main choices. We think there's going to be a big market because it was SurfControl's own back yard."
Following the change of SurfControl's ownership, users are likely to re-evaluate what they have when they get the end of their yearly or three-yearly licences, he said. "The majority of the market is already supplied, so the question is how much churn takes place around renewal time."
He said one differentiator in the 8e6 product was its ability to store up to two years of records for forensic purposes. That allows companies to monitor staff behaviour on the web, and could, for instance, be used to help build a case for dismissal against an employee for persistent misuse of the Internet.
He said Wick Hill would be offering "strong double-digit" margins to resellers, who would also have the opportunity to earn good service revenues from the web filtering product.
But 8e6 will have competition from at least one local supplier. Bloxx of Livingston, Scotland, has already built a web filtering business in the education market, where schools have to take special care about which sites their students visit, as well as in health and other parts of the public sector.
Bloxx managing director Eamonn Doyle said there was no mass exodus of SurfControl customers, but a "growing disquiet" among them as they realise their change of circumstances. "Customers find out at different points, such as when they renew, or try to get support," he said. "It gives companies like us a chance to step in when they feel left alone. They will have made a choice between Websense or SurfControl, so to find the product they preferred has been absorbed into the company that they rejected gives them a fresh opportunity to check the market again. It won't come in one big wave, but there is an emerging awareness."
He said Bloxx had already won a couple of large new customers in Cheshire, both of which had formerly used SurfControl.
"But our biggest success over the next six months will be not be from picking off the odd customer here and there, but from recruiting some resellers from both Websense and SurfControl," he said. "There is an opportunity for us to attract some of those people over to us, and for them to add a product that has not been in their portfolio before, rather than fighting amongst themselves for the old business."
Privately-held Bloxx was recently identified by KPMG as one of the UK's top 50 fastest growing technology companies. Unlike most other web filtering companies which rely solely on maintaining a large database of known URLs to block, Bloxx supplements that approach with its own patented Tru-View technology, which analyses web pages on the fly and flags up any that look unsuitable.
Doyle hopes that the attraction of Tru-View, and commission rates of 30 per cent, will be enough to get the resellers calling.
Websense was asked for comment on this story but failed to respond.