Interview with Adam N. Bosnian, Vice President, Sales and Marketing of Elron Software

Adam N. Bosnian joined Elron Software in May 2000. Bosnian brings a strong background in sales, strategy development, corporate partnering, marketing communications, product lifecycle management and strategic partner relations.

Introduce Elron Software. When was the company started? How did it evolve?

Elron Software, Inc. (ESI) was founded in 1997 and initially offered multiple products to the SMB marketplace. These products included: a firewall, Internet bandwidth analysis and optimization applications, a web usage tracking application, an application usage tracking application, as well Y2K products and professional services for network implementation and integration.

In early 2000, ESI undertook an effort to focus the development, marketing and sales energies on a single market space – the early stage but high growth, content filtering market. While phasing out the other product lines, ESI embarked upon developing two major content filtering products: Web Inspector and Message Inspector. The goal was to architect these web and email content filtering products so that they would work within the SMB market as well as address the needs, expectations and traffic load of larger, enterprise organizations.

Today, ESI offers Message Inspector and Web Inspector to companies of all sizes, with a particular focus on 1000-20,000+ user opportunities.

What are your company’s flagship products and for what market are they intended?

Elron Software’s Internet Manager product family, including IM Web Inspector, IM Message Inspector and IM Anti-Virus, is a comprehensive set of solutions for web access control, email and spam content filtering and virus protection. These award-winning solutions maximize the productive use of the Internet while minimizing the associated risks: confidential data loss, reduced productivity, legal liability, network congestion and virus attacks. Elron Software has licensed its software to thousands of organizations, schools and government entities.

Which challenges do you face in the marketplace? What do you see as your advantages?

There are several challenges that the content filtering market, and ESI by extension, face over the next several years. These include:

1) Designing filtering applications to keep up with ever-increasing email and web traffic loads
2) Maximizing the corporate ‘appetite’ for content filtering applications in the face of decreasing IT budgets and economic worries
3) Managing the competitive landscape – multiple solutions from multiple vendors and myriad delivery mechanisms (application, service, appliance, etc.)

One of the key advantages and differentiators in our Message Inspector and Web Inspector product lines is the ability to handle a broad spectrum of Internet traffic load. ESI has developed and continues to develop all products to address the increasing amounts of web and email traffic. Inherent benefits of the products include the ability to deploy multiple servers to scale with increasing loads, while being centrally managed and maintained by a web-based management console. In addition, Web Inspector and Message Inspector take full advantage of multiple-processor server implementations and are designed from the ground up to be processor efficient. As an example, in 2001 Web Inspector handled ~2,000 users/server, whereas today we specify up to 6,500 users/server.

The content filtering uptake in the market, even in the face of the economic and IT budget woes over the past two years, has continued to grow at a double digit CAGR. The industry, and ESI as a member company, must continue to highlight and raise the visibility of the needs, requirements and benefits of content filtering above and beyond the present day implementations. As an example, much of today’s email content filtering implementations focus either on attachment handling or spam detection, both important aspects of email filtering. But few companies have expanded beyond these ‘1st order’ uses into using email content filtering for business critical applications. These ‘2nd order’ uses include:

  • Industry specific content filtering for regulatory compliance (e.g. – HIPAA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, SEC et al)
  • Intelligent email and document archiving
  • Business intelligence/email data mining to determine what is occurring in a business on a day-to-day or minute-by-minute basis
  • Protection of confidential information from being sent outside an organization

From the beginning, one of ESI’s core advantages in the market was the ability to provide web, email and anti-virus filtering from a single source…something that very few competitors can offer. With the Internet Manager family of solutions, ESI can handle the bulk of any content filtering requirements that a company may have. Furthering this advantage, ESI’s long-term strategy is to ‘remove the adjective’ from spam/email/web/virus content filtering, and provide a one stop, one application offering for all corporate and enterprise accounts.

In addition, ESI is able to be ‘delivery-mechanism’ agnostic, as we have worked to embed our core content filtering technology and capabilities into our partners’ appliance, service and MTA offerings. In this manner, we can provide the best content filtering in the market, in whatever manner an end-user prefers – whether it be as an application directly from ESI or as an appliance, service or MTA add-on through our partners.

You claim that IM Anti-Virus software provides “total virus protection”. Is total virus protection possible?

Total virus protection is defined as a product that can prevent the spread of a virus that may infiltrate your network. ESI’s Anti-Virus Solution not only provides protection against viruses at the email gateway (SMTP based mail) but it also prevents the spread of viruses internally on sites running Exchange or Lotus Notes. In addition, ESI’s Anti-Virus Solution integrates seamlessly with our email content filtering solution, Message Inspector, which can be used as a secondary line of virus defense. The greatest window of vulnerability at the email gateway is immediately after a new borne virus hits the “street,” and virus vendors are furiously trying to develop a signature that will address this new virus. Message Inspector allows users to create rules that will block mail based on specific language and/or a specific file attachment(s).

In your opinion, how big of a problem is spam?

Managing spam has become a time-consuming challenge for network administrators, executives and employees alike. IDC research reveals that 1.5 billion spam mailings hit corporate in-boxes in 2001, representing about 20% of all U.S. business email. All the required sending, receiving, responding and deleting is taking its toll on workplace productivity and mail server bandwidth, as well as increasing the risk of legal liability from inappropriate email content. And, with the increased popularity of portable email devices and 24/7 email pagers, the spam problem is likely to increase.

Internet monitoring in the workplace is a common thing. How can a company find an appropriate balance between its interest and employees’ privacy?

Elron Software is cognizant of this issue and has always strived to help our customers find a balance between creating a productive work environment and maintaining employee privacy. The first step comes in the form of a comprehensive Internet Usage Policy (IUP), which should be clearly communicated to all employees in written form. Elron Software publishes an Internet Usage Policy guide, which can help organizations formulate a policy that works for them, but companies are also encouraged to consult with their attorneys prior to distributing the policy company-wide.

While the Internet should be used primarily for business-related purposes, most companies are willing to accept a certain amount of recreational surfing. Web filtering solutions, such as IM Web Inspector, can help companies achieve the balance they are seeking between protecting their interests and employee privacy. For example, Web Inspector can be used to restrict the web surfing activity that potentially exposes the company to legal liability, while allowing everyday, recreational surfing. Often times, access to these recreational sites can even be eliminated from reporting altogether, giving employees the confidence that a certain level of privacy is guaranteed. Solutions like Web Inspector are not intended to monitor an employee’s every step on the Internet, just to ensure that it’s being used responsibly.

What’s your opinion on websites that run their own “blacklists” of alleged spammers?

While I think that these lists have some value in combating spam, there are several limitations associated with them and this particular approach. The two biggest problems with this technique are that it is reactive and does not look at the content of the message.

Elron Software’s Message Inspector offers a flexible approach to spam management. The foundation of its spam protection is the lexical-based spam engine – which scans for over 600 spam-like attributes in the header, body, attachments, etc. of an incoming message to determine if it is spam. Utilizing technology, as opposed to relying on static lists, enables Messages Inspector to produce more accurate results.

What are your plans for the future?

Over the last few years, instant messaging and peer-to-peer computing have become more and more popular. Companies are now concerned that these applications are having an adverse affect on worker productivity and network bandwidth. With this in mind, future releases of Web Inspector will include the ability to monitor and restrict these types of applications in order to foster a more productive work environment. Finally, we are committed to continually improving Web Inspector’s list and content-based classification technology (including foreign language support) in order to help our customers achieve the most accurate site classification available and keep pace with the exponential growth of the Internet.

In addition, we will continue to make improvements to our award-winning spam technology, which will give end-users more customization options by allowing them to tune the overall aggressiveness of the engine itself. Future Message Inspector releases will also include enhancements to address the specific needs of vertical markets such health/human services as well financial services.