Security vendor Websense has launched an aggressive partner recruitment drive and embraced two-tier distribution in its efforts to implement an all-channel sales strategy.

The San Diego-based company has forged its first distribution partnership in North America with Ingram Micro, of Santa Ana, Calif., the world’s largest IT products distributor.

Websense aims to move all its sales to the channel some time next year, said Michele Shannon, the company’s senior director of product management.

With some 24,000 companies already in its active customer list, including a large share of the Fortune 500, the vendor nevertheless believes it can gain better traction in the SMB (small and midsize business) space by working with solution providers, Shannon said.

“The channel is really the only way to do it,” she said.

Websense earlier this year decided to ease out of direct sales and take on rivals such as McAfee and Symantec in the SMB market. To lead the charge, Websense hired former McAfee channel chief David Roberts as vice president of sales.

The company is betting the time is right to engage channel partners for its subscription-based security and Web filtering software, even though vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco Systems are integrating security into their products.

Websense’s technology, Shannon said, is complementary to the security that Microsoft, for instance, is embedding in the next release of its operating system, dubbed Vista. Channel companies, constantly on the lookout for high-margin products around which they can wrap services, are attracted to the Websense technology because it meets those requirements, she said.

“They can use our solution and create services around it,” she said.

Websense partner TotalTech, of San Diego, is earning margins of more than 20 percent on the vendor’s technology, said TotalTech President and CEO Ken Hamilton.

The vendor maintains a database of corrupted Web sites and phishing attacks and constantly updates it to protect customers from new types of threats. The company’s technology has reporting capabilities that allow customers to keep abreast of risks averted by Websense’s filtering and security software.

Websense also issues biannual reports that provide assessments of the most common security threats facing technology users and where they originate. In the first half of 2006, for instance, the company found that the number of Web sites designed for the purpose of spreading crimeware increased by 100 percent. Attacks on commercial sites by cyber-thieves went up 35 percent.

“They are doing this 24 hours a day, figuring out ways to take money from people,” said Shannon.

The code used by hackers has become more malicious, sophisticated and harder to detect, the vendor found.

Customers like the Websense capabilities as well as the technology’s ease of use, said Hamilton.

“It’s very easy to install and very simplified to implement,” said Hamilton. “It’s also highly flexible, which is what customers like.”

Most significantly, said Hamilton, who worked at Websense before founding TotalTech last year, the technology does what it is purported to, which is not always the case in the IT world.

“The key word is that it works, and it works extremely well,” said Hamilton.

In its partner recruitment efforts, Websense is not focusing solely on companies that already have security expertise. Shannon attributed this to the technology’s ease of use.

Nevertheless, the vendor has launched a Certified Web Security Engineer program to train partners on Web security.

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