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Winning the enterprise antispyware beauty contest

All eyes will be on Microsoft's enterprise class security software when it begins its trial run sometime before the end of this year. The competition from other vendors is stiff. What will make IT managers sit up and take notice?

With a limited trial run of its enterprise antispyware software expected before the end of the year, Microsoft is moving closer to becoming a player in the enterprise security software game.

But the software, which is due out sometime in 2006, will be entering a market populated by a competitive roster of companies with far more experience and credibility with security tools than Microsoft.

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Brian Burke, research manager for security products at International Data Corp. (IDC), said Microsoft might have trouble making an initial impact with enterprises, considering the number of companies that are already using established products. The highly plentiful group of competitors includes Symantec Corp.'s Client Security 3.0 and McAfee Inc.'s Anti-Spyware Enterprise Edition Module. Other familiar products include Shavlik Technologies NetChk Spyware, Sunbelt Software's CounterSpy Enterprise and Trend Micro Inc.'s Anti-Spyware Enterprise Edition.

Microsoft has kept details about its enterprise security software, called Microsoft Client Protection, pretty quiet. All the company has said so far is the software will guard against blended threats, as in spyware, rootkits and viruses. There will also be an integrated management console.

But if the price is right, Microsoft just may make some quick inroads. Burke said he expects Microsoft to come in lower than its competitors. "As of right now, the standard pricing for networks of under 100 users is about $25 to $35 per user and around $5 to $10 for larger ones in the thousands," Burke said.

These prices certainly vary among Microsoft's competitors. For example, Trend Micro's Anti-Spyware Enterprise Edition currently rings in at a per-user price of $11.55, and Shavlik NetChk Spyware is $17.50 per user, for up to 100 seats.

Cheaper does not mean better in some cases, said Bradley Dinerman, vice president of information technology at MIS Alliance. Dinerman said that he has found a lot of success using Sunbelt's CounterSpy Enterprise, which is priced at just over $25 per user for the first 10 seats. He explained that an increased amount of client servers has made standard antispyware software insufficient, and the need for enterprise-class products that much more necessary.

"Using [desktop products] just became far too time-consuming," he said. "In the end, using enterprise-class products is both easier for us and cheaper for the consumer."

Of course, price won't be the only criteria used to judge whether Microsoft's security software is a good deal. As always, platform interoperability is a major issue, especially when instituting security software that is centrally managed. One of the benefits of Trend Micro's enterprise software is that it is compatible with all major enterprise security products.

For some IT managers, the Microsoft name could be a plus. "Just like any other time the company releases something, masses of people who don't want to put too much thought or effort into their IT decisions will jump on the bandwagon," said Kevin Beaver, founder and principle consultant for Principle Logic LLC.

Beaver added that with the current state of IT, any new enterprise-class software is welcome "[Enterprise-class] is certainly a must for any network larger than a couple dozen computers," he said.

"Most enterprises I've seen have a mish-mosh of Spybot, Ad-Aware and, more recently, Microsoft's Windows AntiSpyware at the desktop level, but nothing centrally-managed," he added. "It makes my head spin thinking about how difficult that is to manage."

Microsoft has not released pricing or licensing details about Client Protection. The company's consumer antispyware software, Defender, is also in beta and due out next year as part of the Windows Vista operating system.

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