Merger going well, insists Websense

Websense has hit back at claims that its takeover of SurfControl has caused customers and resellers to jump ship.

Websense has hit back at claims that its takeover of SurfControl has caused customers and resellers to jump ship.

"The merger has gone better than expected and we are seeing rewards faster than even we expected," said Pat Dunne, who heads the merged operation in the UK.

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Web filtering firms exploit SurfControl uncertainty reported last week that web filtering companies were muscling in on SurfControl's customer base and uncovering a growing discontent since last October's acquisition of SurfControl.

But Dunne asserted that Websense's recent figures show that the purchase last year of both SurfControl and PortAuthority, which specialised in information leakage prevention (ILP), had actually strengthened Websense's position in the broader web security market.

"We had a spectacular fourth quarter, and exceeded our expectations, with revenues of $108 million over the quarter for Websense worldwide, compared to a prediction of a little south of $100 million," said Dunne.

He conceded that the company had been vulnerable in the fourth quarter of last year following the SurfControl acquisition. "It was quite a difficult thing to do from the point of view of both customers and reseller. We did a good job of reassuring them we had their best interests at heart. The main reason we overachieved in Q4 was that we had higher than expected renewals, particularly from our SurfControl base."

He said the pledge to continue supporting (though not selling) SurfControl's web filtering product had allayed customer fears, as had an assurance that they could renew at their previous renewal prices.

"There's no rush for customers to move, they don't have to move to the Websense filtering product today," he said. "Bu we have found so far in the fourth quarter 2007 and the first quarter of '08 that there are significant numbers of customers that want to move across to the Websense product and we are pleased to enable them to do that."

The addition of SurfControl brought a number of elements to the Websense offering, including email filtering and managed services. Along with the information leakage prevention from PortAuthority, it has put Websense in a strong position to offer broader web security to the market, and giving it a 21% market share, according to IDC, ahead of Trend Micro, Symantec and Microsoft.

"Websense is now in a market that is three times the size it was when we were just doing web filtering," said Dunne.

He said Websense resellers had welcomed the opportunity to sell a broader range of products and services. "Our Websense partners are very happy with it because they want to sell more, and having fewer vendors suits them," he said.

SurfControl resellers should appreciate the extra investment of resources, he said. "They can now get involved in the ILP opportunity, and they see Websense has a strong will to invest. We are putting a lot of resources behind web filtering, email and the managed services part of this business, as well as information leakage prevention. So they are seeing a lot more investment than they saw in the past."

He confirmed that SurfControl's support centre in Congleton, Cheshire, was being run down and that support would be centred at Websense's premises in Reading. The two saleforces had also now been merged, and although there would be fewer managers, the number of sales people had increased, he said.

The main aim now is to consolidate and merge the different operations, and that would rule out any other major acquisitions in the near future. "We have taken on a big bite here, and it will take us a while to chew it," he said.

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