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McAfee this week launched a subscription-based e-mail protection service that gives channel partners an opportunity for recurring revenue.

The McAfee Secure Messaging Service, based on Postini Inc.’s Perimeter Manager spam-filtering technology, offers protection against spam, phishing, viruses, inappropriate content, denial-of-service attacks and directory-harvest attacks.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor is offering two iterations of the service, one for enterprises with a minimum of 1,000 users and one for small and midsize businesses with fewer than 500 users. The service requires no purchase of hardware or software, though an installation at the client site is necessary.

Customers that prefer to have the service managed off site may contract with one of McAfee Inc.’s channel partners to handle it remotely. Through this managed security approach, customers gain the convenience of automatic updates and maintenance.

For VARs and integrators that deliver and manage the service, the subscription-based approach means they can bill customers monthly without having to visit the customer site to do the work. The only time the VAR or integrator has to visit the site is for installation.

“All the updates are managed in the data center where the software is,” said Steve Steinhauer, senior product manager at McAfee. “It’s an easy setup for the customer.”

With McAfee Secure Messaging Service, the VAR arranges for all e-mail to be redirected to data center where messages are filtered so that unwanted and unsafe mail never reaches the user network.

The system quarantines spam and virus-infected e-mails before they can enter the network, which results in a reduction of messages entering the network of as much as 80 percent, according to McAfee. The mail is then returned through the customer’s own mail server.

End users have the ability to customize spam settings, giving them control of what is legitimate e-mail and what is spam.

The service addresses what has become a daunting problem for computer users and network administrators.

According to research firm International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., the number of spam messages sent daily will grow to 36.7 billion worldwide in 2007 from the current 28.4 billion.

More than a nuisance, spam is dangerous because it often contains viruses, malicious code and fraudulent solicitations for privacy information. To get around spam blockers, spammers constantly change their tactics, so frequent updates to the technology are necessary.

“It’s critical to keep up to date, and a managed service is the best way to make sure that happens,” Steinhauer said.

McAfee partnered with Postini, Redwood City, Calif., for the service offering, even though it already had some of the technology, because McAfee wanted to accelerate going to market with an enterprise-grade product, Steinhauer said. And since the companies already had a relationship, the partnership made sense, he said.

Postini provides secure message management to more than 30,000 businesses and keeps a running tab on its web site of the e-mail it processes and how many invalid delivery attempts it stops.

By Wednesday afternoon, the numbers for the previous 24 hours were more than 223 million messages and more than 160,000 invalid delivery attempts.

The demand for security services from VARs and integrators has skyrocketed. Channel companies with no security expertise have been looking at ways to meet the demand by partnering, reselling it as a managed service, or both.

Steinhauer said the McAfee service provides VARs and integrators with a viable option. “This is a great way for a partner who previously has no security expertise to get started,” he said.

McAfee, he added, is providing training to partners who need it.