Peter Stephenson, technology editor, SC Magazine
Peter Stephenson, technology editor, SC Magazine

It is a brave new world after the economic downturn of the past few years. Maybe. One thing is for sure: Those companies that have been true innovators over the past several years still are. But there have been some new players emerging into the security products space and they are doing some interesting, if not dramatic, things. And that, it seems, is the hallmark of today's innovators: Their innovations are solid, well-crafted and not in the least dramatic. But that does not mean that they are any less interesting or important.

This month we examine these leaders in our annual issue on innovation over the past year. This has become a perennial favorite and we are starting to see a small handful of companies that have appeared since our first tally. After talking with professionals at some of these remarkable organizations (we refer to them as visionaries), we have opened up a new category this year: Innovators Hall of Fame.

There are five companies that comprise the Hall of Fame Class of 2010. More about them later. What does it take to be a Hall of Fame innovator? We looked for several things. First, and most important, of course, is innovation. Not just innovation in the area of technology in which these companies develop their wares, but broad technical and business innovation. That's what it takes to be – and stay – a leader in our field.

Customers are fickle. They want their security problems addressed directly, simply and effectively or they change vendors. And, of course, they want those problems solved. Hall of Fame companies are focused on those customer needs. They don't just give customer relationships lip service. Customers are their number-one drivers. They question customers frequently about their needs and they act on that information.

The second characteristic of a Hall of Fame Innovator is persistence over time. These companies hit the ground running when they were founded and never looked back. They work hard to determine what they should be doing and they keep doing it. And refining it. And, they do this year after year – applying customer feedback to make sure that they are doing it right.

Finally, it is not enough to be persistent. An innovator must be consistent. They must be consistent in their commitments to their customers, their field, their employees and their responsibility to stay ahead of their biggest competitors – those who would compromise the systems that they are protecting.

Truly, Hall of Fame Innovators are our industry's partners. These are the folks who we turn to in a crisis. We trust them, perhaps because we need them and have little choice but to trust. However, my experience in more than 20 years of consulting, is that you can get technology anywhere. Trust is far harder to find and harder yet to define adequately. Trust relationships are worth more than all of the technology in the world.

That said, a competent product, superb service, reliability and staying power are pretty important too. Fortunately, we have found there are organizations that fill that bill. Once we found them and tested them over the past three years, we knew what to call them: SC Magazine Hall of Fame Innovators. The team at SC Labs warmly congratulates the Innovators Hall of Fame Class of 2010. Well done!