TCO Study Sheds New Light on the Hidden Costs of Your Web Filter - 28 Oct 2009

Author: Ron Kaplan, Director, Product Management, St. Bernard

 A new study comparing total cost of ownership (TCO) among some leading Web Filters gives renewed credence to the Gartner Group’s contention, from way back in 1987, that initial purchase price is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology acquisitions. Their original study (and subsequent reports) found that with technology buys, hidden costs such as the time required for setup and installation, administration and maintenance can surpass the initial acquisition price by an increase of 4 to 5 times. Even today, many organizations find out too late that the bargain technology they acquired has turned into a money pit – requiring more resources than they would have ever committed had they known the costly consequences of their decisions. That’s what makes this 2009 study by Robert Hale and Associates so stunning.

The study compared leading Web filters from Websense, SurfControl and St. Bernard’s iPrism. It measured the time IT administrators spend on common tasks associated with deploying and managing each of the solutions. Participants in the study included a random sampling of a total of 300 IT professionals, 100 from each company. They were stratified so that each product was represented equally by a group of 100 IT professionals from mid-enterprise companies with from 250 to 1,000 employees. The study was arranged so that each group of 100 users were stratified equally across various company sizes.

The study measured total hours spent on tasks associated with Web filtering including:

  • Set up and installation
  • Management and administration
  • Hardware maintenance
  • Reporting

The study findings were not ambiguous. In each task measured, the iPrism Web Filter required half the time demanded by the other solutions. Even casual analysis will reveal that this computes into thousands of dollars saved and the reason the study measures total cost of ownership. Time is money and time saved directly impacts bottom lines.

Here is some detail from the study findings:

  • For all companies and all parameters surveyed, Websense and SurfControl customers spent twice as much time in the first year as St. Bernard iPrism users. St. Bernard iPrism users spent an average of 483 hours per year, Websense users spent 1,040 hours and SurfControl users spent 910 hours.
  • The dramatic difference in hours spent was across all tasks associated with a Web filter that were measured including set up and installation, management and administration, hardware maintenance and reporting.
  • A larger number of Websense and SurfControl customers have switched to iPrism than have iPrism customers switched to either Websense or SurfControl.

Here is a summary table of the findings:

  Web Filter IT Hours Results Across All Industries
web filter it hours results

W) statistically significant from Websense at 95% confidence level; S) statistically significant from SurfControl at 95% confidence level and B) statistically significant from St. Bernard at 95% confidence level

  • St. Bernard (Setup S.E.=2.2, Mgmt S.E.=2.5, Hardware S.E.=1.8, Reporting S.E.=1.3)
  • Websense (Setup S.E.=3.9, Mgmt S.E.=4.4, Hardware S.E.=4.9, Reporting S.E.=5.2)
  • SurfControl (Setup S.E.=5.0, Mgmt S.E.=3.4, Hardware S.E.=2.5, Reporting S.E.=3.2)

Note: S.E. = standard error of the sample mean for respective hour estimates. Total Hours First Year = (12 x monthly hours) + (1 x setup & install hours)

While the huge delta in time spent on tasks was revealing, it is also interesting to note how similar some of the data was. Some answers from the three solutions were virtually identical. For instance:

  • On the question “Does your company have a single policy for all employees or do you provide filtering based on job function?” and “How does your company organize Web filtering?” -- the answers were all within a few percentage points of each other. The choices included, “By Functional Group, By Location, By Management Level, By IP Address/Computer”.
  • The question “What reporting does your company perform for ongoing Web filter management on a monthly basis?” included the options “Compliance, Exception, Bandwidth, Case Management and Special Request. This question was also answered identically for all solutions.

The conclusion? The IT professionals who responded in the study seem to do Web filtering in a similar manner. They organize their policies, enforcement and reporting in the same way and yet the time they spend managing iPrism is half of the time spent on the other solutions. This study should be required reading for any IT or purchasing department tasked with choosing a Web filtering solution.

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