Interest in SharePoint is heating up. Microsoft, which, according to Gartner, grew its share of the worldwide portal market by 150 percent in 2004, continues to push its collaboration technology. Online SharePoint discussion groups such as those at Windows IT Pro's sister site MSD2D.com are flourishing, evidence that more and more IT pros are either working with Windows SharePoint Services or Microsoft Office Share-Point Portal Server 2003 or are investigating them. If you're already working with SharePoint, you probably also understand why Microsoft says SharePoint presents "unique administration requirements" because of its multitiered distributed architecture. The downside of a collaboration technology like SharePoint is that it exposes an organization to security threats such as viruses. Fortunately, SharePoint-specific antivirus solutions are available, as the buyer's guide table on page 32 shows. Let's take a quick look at Microsoft's two Share-Point products and why they require antivirus solutions, then examine the specifics of SharePoint antivirus protection.
Collaborative Software Connects Users
Windows SharePoint Services provides basic Webportal, intranet, and database services for collaboration and is included in Windows Server 2003 Release 2 (R2). Companies can use its portfolio of services to create collaborative Web sites where workgroups across organizations can share content and data by using Microsoft Office programs. You can also use Windows SharePoint Services as a development platform to build collaborative applications that are specific to your organization. Windows SharePoint Services provides sites made up of Web Parts (customizable portal components) and Windows ASP.NET-based components.
SharePoint Portal Server, which is a separately purchased product, is a portal that combines Web sites from multiple servers across an enterprise. SharePoint Portal Server is the enterprise layer that's built upon Windows SharePoint Services and offers a scalable portal server that extends the Web-hosting and document-storage capabilities of Windows SharePoint Services, while also adding such functions as navigation, search, application integration, and personalization. You can deploy Windows SharePoint Services by itself, without SharePoint Portal Server, but you can't run SharePoint Portal Server without Windows SharePoint Services.
Why Antivirus for SharePoint?
Whether you're deploying SharePoint Portal Server or using only Window SharePoint Services, you still need SharePoint-specific antivirus protection. The reason for this is Windows SharePoint Services uses Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE) to store data, instead of storing documents in ordinary file storage and document metadata in a database. Because the SharePoint content is stored in SQL Server databases, file-server antivirus software can't scan it. Email antivirus software also doesn't protect SharePoint documents from viruses because SharePoint doesn't use email to exchange documents. Instead, documents are uploaded or downloaded through the portal in Share-Point Portal Server or through team sites in Windows SharePoint Services.
Because SharePoint technology enables the easy exchange of files between users, even if you've deployed security policies on perimeter and mail servers, users might still try to use SharePoint to exchange files that would ordinarily be blocked by email security. Therefore it's important to set security policies for SharePoint servers as well. Additionally, your mobile users might not all have the most up-to-date antivirus protection. An upload of infected content from a laptop to a SharePoint site could propagate a worm or virus to your internal and external users. Also, some enterprises running SharePoint allow their customers as well as employees to access enterprise SharePoint sites. These customers might not have updated virus definitions on their desktops or even any antivirus protection at all on the desktop. By deploying a SharePoint-specific antivirus solution, you can preempt such threats.
Features to Look For
Microsoft recommends antivirus solutions based on the Microsoft Virus Scanning API (VS API), and all seven of the SharePointspecific antivirus solutions listed in the buyer's guide integrate with VS API. Some antivirus vendors tout their products' use of multiple scanning engines to provide a higher virus-detection rate than products that use only one scanning engine.
Beyond whether it uses multiple scanning engines, a SharePoint antivirus solution should incorporate what you look for in a regular antivirus solution, such as centralized or remote management, real-time or on-demand scanning, reporting formats that match your needs, and administrator notification. Each of the solutions in the buyer's guide offers virus detection and blocking, as well as quarantine features, automatic updates, centralized and remote management options, and a proprietary antivirus scanning engine. Where they might differ is in their ease of use, the functionality of the UI, the makeup of the proprietary virusscanning engines, how each creates remote and centralized management, their different reporting and notification options, and cost and licensing options.