Messaging security vendor Proofpoint is launching a program designed to help managed-service providers offer the company’s e-mail screening and anti-virus solutions.

Through the program, MSPs will be able to host the Proofpoint Protection Server software and Proofpoint Messaging Security Gateway appliance over the Web for their customers.

Proofpoint Inc., founded in June 2002 by former Netscape Inc. chief technology officer Eric Hahn, started out by selling direct but has been making inroads in the channel recently as it seeks to broaden its reach.

Last month, the Cupertino, Calif., vendor launched a VAR recruiting effort to resell its software and gateway appliances.

Proofpoint is now turning its attention to MSPs because it has discovered that a lot of customers would rather have the technology hosted than deployed in-house, according to Dave Crilley, director of channel marketing at Proofpoint.

The company’s end customers have an average of 8,000 seats, so the number of hours lost collectively to sifting through e-mail is significant.

MSPs that enroll in the program receive a startup package with a certain number of licenses and on-site training from Proofpoint. “After that, it’s pay-as-you go licensing,” Crilley said. “They don’t really want an off-the-rack model.”

Proofpoint developed the program based on input from existing resellers and MSPs. “As one of Proofpoint’s earliest MSPs, we helped shape the program. We do have the option of reselling in the traditional model. However, we don’t see as strong a demand for this within our client base,” said John DeMartino, Invision vice president of marketing and business development.

Click here to read about Microsoft’s plans to ease and expand Webmail with its Hosted Exchange service.

Participating MSPs are entitled to on-site technical training, 24×7 support, incentive programs that reward performance, lead sharing, co-marketing support and access to an online partner portal.

In deciding whom to enroll in its partnering efforts, be it VARs or MSPs, Proofpoint is taking into account the customer’s level of technical expertise, Crilley said. “We’re taking a very selective approach to recruiting.”

The company is planning to recruit about 40 VARs and 50 to 75 MSPs. This quarter, Proofpoint already has picked up about a dozen new partnerships, Crilley said.

Proofpoint’s anti-spam technology, which employs the patent-pending Proofpoint MLX system, has an effectiveness rate of more than 99 percent, said Keith Crosley, director of market development.

The company also has technology to manage outgoing messages. Administrators can set Proofpoint systems to block the e-mail transmission of customer lists, intellectual property and documents protected under such federal regulations as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), he said.

Read more here about managed e-mail security providers.

Crilley said MSPs can use the Proofpoint technology as a platform to add services from other vendors, such as e-mail archiving and backup.

“We’re kind of offering MSPs the opportunity to broaden their product scope,” he said.

Commack, N.Y.-based service provider Invision is providing end customers with Proofpoint Protection Server as a managed service.

DeMartino said Proofpoint solutions integrate with Invision’s overall managed security service and Hosted Exchange e-mail solution. “One of the value propositions we represent to our clients is the ability to provide an integrated approach to security, that is, from assessment through on-going management. Proofpoint fits in well both from a technology and business perspective,” he said.