Marshal Software has announced its entry into the U.S. market for content security with the opening of a headquarters in Atlanta and an upgrade offer for users of its key competitor's product.

Marshal has been in the content security market since 1996, says Steve Bachman, the U.S. president for the New Zealand-based firm. It has more than 2,000 customers in 30-plus countries, including 200 in the United States, where it has built a limited presence for about a year through its reseller channel.

The company's main products, MailMarshal and WebMarshal, scan email and Web traffic looking for inappropriate content as defined by the user company's security policy. The products also provide an email audit trail, product management and billing reports and enable you to control what file types are allowed in or out. MailMarshal and WebMarshal also work with multiple virus detection engines to scan for viruses.

Through the end of the year, Marshal is offering a financial incentive to users of Baltimore Technologies' MAILsweeper and/or WEBsweeper products to switch to the Marshal competitors. Baltimore users who turn in their licenses to Marshal will receive a free MailMarshal and/or WebMarshal license for the same number of users, providing they purchase a two-year maintenance agreement from the company. The maintenance fee is 20% of the license cost.

"Baltimore is our number one target," says Skip Dostine, Marshal's VP of sales for the United States. "If you're talking about high-end content security systems, they have the greatest installed base."

According to Peter Hodges, Marshal's co-founder and VP of development, Marshal products outperform those from Baltimore by 200% to 300%.

MailMarshal works with any SMTP-compatible mail program. It unpacks a message stream, breaks it into its component parts and runs a variety of checks to find inappropriate content. The product uses a three-phase approach, Hodges says. It looks at who the message is to and from; what interesting characteristics it has, such as whether it contains a virus or if it's the wrong time of day to be sending that type of message; and what action the user wants to take, including blocking the message, forwarding for review, stopping for later delivery, or keeping a copy for audit purposes.

MailMarshal can extract raw text from a number of file formats, such as Word documents, and examine it to determine whether the content is in violation of any policies. Breaking the message apart also enables MailMarshal to detect if hackers have attempted to disguise a file type, such as by adding a .doc extension to a .exe file.

Marshal has a number of prebuilt policy scripts available, such as ones that look for spam and hoax emails, and users can likewise create their own. The company encourages customers to share their scripts, so other users can benefit.

"We've got a reasonably extensive list of default templates embedded into the product," Hodges says. "The feedback we get from customers gets incorporated into the product."

Customers report that the product saves them money in two ways, by reducing bandwidth requirements and by improving employee productivity.

"In most installations, you're pretty much guaranteed to save at least 50% of your bandwidth by implementing simple rules," Dostine says. Rules can be written to eliminate spam as well as bandwidth-hogging file types such as MP3s and MPEGs.

The same rules will also boost user productivity, since employees won't be wasting time wading through junk email and watching videos sent from friends and colleagues. "It's easy to get a positive ROI on productivity of employees alone," he says.

WebMarshal, the company's other product, is based on a content engine that works similarly to MailMarshal. Administrators can establish policies that prevent browsing of certain sites altogether, or by parameters such as time of day. The same text censor that is used in MailMarshal is used to identify sites that should be off-limits and automatically updates blacklists accordingly.

Pricing for each product ranges from $800 for a 25-user license to $6,800 for a 500-user license. An annual maintenace fee of 20% buys support as well as rights to all product updates. Additional volume and package discounts are available.

www.marshalsoftware.com