Russian anti-virus vendor Kaspersky Lab has launched hosted email security services for the UK market, primarily targeted at the SMB (small to medium business) sector.

The two hosted services are known as Kaspersky Hosted Email Security AS (anti-spam) and Hosted Email Security AV (anti-virus). Kaspersky launched similar services in Russian almost two years ago, followed by France and Germany (including Switzerland and Austria) in October last year.

So why the delay coming to the UK? "Well, we needed to do some work around services," said Kerstin Reiners, the head of marketing UK & Ireland at Kaspersky Lab UK. "We already had datacentres in place in France and Germany, and the UK will follow shortly."

The UK market is already serviced by competing offerings from the likes of MessageLabs, Websense (via the BlackSpider service that it acquired from the SurfControl acquisition), Postini (now owned by Google), and Webroot (which acquired Email Systems in November).

But Kaspersky is confident in the new service's performance in prevent malicious content from reaching the corporate network, so much so that it is offering SLAs (Service Level Agreements) with a guaranteed 95 percent minimum spam detection rate.

The company believes that Kaspersky Hosted Security Services can be deployed at around 30 percent of the cost of procuring and administering an in-house email protection solution, keeping corporate gateways free from spam, phishing attacks, Trojans and other malware, as well as acting as an email firewall and preventing DoS and directory harvest attacks on mail servers.

According to Guenter Fuhrmann, director of hosted security services for Europe, the Russian vendor is also planning a UK launch of web and IM traffic filtering (which are currently available in France and Germany) in April.

"The sweet spot for these services are businesses with up to 250 users," said Fuhrmann, "although we are also receiving lots of requests from large customers as well."

Kaspersky says it has about 100 customers currently in France and Germany, and two already signed up in the UK.

Kaspersky is offering end-user organisations with up to 250 users the opportunity to trial the service for a period of 3 months free of charge, ending the 21st April 2008.

Thereafter, entry level charges per user per year will be £18.50 ($36). An entry level package for 25 users should be £462 ($898) per year (for both AV and AS services).

The hosted email service is expected to be launched in the United States in April.