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Ken Fitzpatrick believes he has a security solution for small businesses that are truly small.

Fitzpatrick, chief marketing officer at ClearPath Networks Inc., is enlisting the channel to help market the company’s SNAP VPN (virtual private network) security appliance. The appliance, which the El Segundo, Calif., company started shipping in June, provides such features as VPN, firewall, anti-virus scanning, content filtering and intrusion detection/prevention. SNAP VPN ties into ClearPath’s private network, which the company says provides new virus definitions, new intrusion-detection profiles and other security updates.

ClearPath’s SNAP VPN target is the “small” portion of the SMB market. Fitzpatrick says small businesses—defined as firms with one to 99 employees—represent the lion’s share of the SMB market. Citing research from AMI-Partners Inc., a research house that focuses on SMB market intelligence, he says 7.73 million out of some 7.8 million SMBs in the United States fall into the small category.

ClearPath traditionally has pursued midsized businesses in the 250- to 750-employee range. But Fitzpatrick sees pent-up demand in what he views as the underserved small-business sector. He says those businesses have three hot buttons when it comes to network security: external threats such as viruses and denial-of-service attacks, internal issues such as managing complex technologies, and, of course, affordability.

Fitzpatrick said many small firms can’t afford to hire an engineer well-versed in firewall technology, anti-virus protection and network management. ClearPath’s answer: purchase an all-in-one appliance that hooks into a managed service.

Click here to read about the SonicWall Wi-Fi Security Appliance-based package.

As for the appliance, ClearPath offers five models that span 10 to 250 users.
The 10-user appliance is priced at $595. Coupled with one year of service (anti-virus updates, etc.), the package costs $1,499.

ClearPath is tapping the channel to help sell its small-business product. The company’s marketing allies include service providers who offer SNAP VPN as a private-label solution. The company also works with distributors such as Synnex Corp. and has been signing up VARs.

VARs can make commissions on appliance sales and service subscriptions, the latter providing a recurrent revenue stream. Fitzpatrick says the solution can also launch VARs into the network service provider business.

Fitzpatrick contends that the price of entry is low. A VAR’s only capital investment is the purchase of two SNAP VPN appliances, according to the company’s Web site. Training and certification programs are provided at no cost.

Will small-business owners opt for the hybrid security appliance/managed service? The coming months will show how quickly the new offering gains traction.

In the meantime, it’s evident that small business need some form of protection. Fitzpatrick, again citing AMI, says that 40 percent of small businesses lack anti-virus protection. Thirty-six percent have never upgraded their anti-virus protection.

With those sorts of numbers, a VAR may well become a hero in the small-business network security niche.