Although Microsoft's enterprise-oriented Client Protection package provides managed anti-malware protection for midsized and large companies, small businesses and individual users need to seek out other anti-malware solutions. (For more information about Client Protection, see Need To Know, "Microsoft Client Protection," January 2006, InstantDoc ID 48430.) This year, Microsoft will ship two PC security packages, dubbed Windows OneCare Live and Windows Defender, that are intended to help those customers protect their equipment from a variety of electronic attacks. Here's what you need to know about OneCare Live and Windows Defender.
OneCare Live: Small Cost, Big Return
As part of the new Microsoft Live initiative, Windows OneCare Live is a PC health subscription service that costs $49 per year. For that price, you can protect up to three PCs, making it an awesome value for multi-PC households and many small businesses. The subscription includes a continually updated set of software and services, including a two-way firewall that protects both inbound and outbound communications (compared with the Windows XP Service Pack 2—SP2—firewall, which protects only inbound traffic), antivirus scanning, PC performance tuning (including disk clean-up and defragmentation), and data backup and restoration. All these services run automatically in the background, when possible. OneCare Live also integrates with Windows Defender.
Two features distinguish OneCare Live from competing security suites. First, OneCare Live doesn't provide only PC security; it also includes PC health services, such as performance tuning, backup, and restore. Second, OneCare Live is a managed service, which gives individual users and small businesses benefits similar to having an experienced IT staff. As soon as OneCare Live updates become available, Microsoft will automatically transmit the updates to the client, thus keeping the product—and virus definitions—up-to-date.
As of this writing, OneCare Live is still in beta. Microsoft plans to ship the product by mid-2006; it will be available as a Web download and as a retail boxed package. The only thing that's missing—and this could be a sticking point, depending on your needs—is an antispam component. According to Microsoft, most of its customers already get spam protection from their ISPs or email providers.
In case you're wondering, OneCare Live runs fine on Windows XP Professional x64 Edition as a 32-bit application. Microsoft is looking at making a native 64-bit implementation down the road.
Windows Defender: Background Antispyware
Windows Defender, formerly known as Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware, is Microsoft's free desktop antispyware solution. Windows Defender is currently available as a public beta and should ship sometime in third quarter 2006. Despite the beta moniker, the current release is feature-rich and works well.
Microsoft has been testing beta versions publicly for almost a year and a half, but it has dramatically updated the product in recent months to be less obtrusive and run as a service. The application now runs in the background and, on Windows Server 2003 SP1 and XP SP2 systems with Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0 and later, prevents your PC from accepting Web downloads. Consequently, most people will never see the Windows Defender application unless something goes wrong.
One common problem with most antispyware applications is that they're almost as annoying as the spyware they remove. Windows Defender avoids this problem by suppressing pop-up alerts (unless there's a serious problem), not keeping an icon in the system tray, and not displaying the application's UI unless you specifically summon it. Windows Defender is available to customers running Windows 2003 SP1, XP SP2, or Windows 2000 SP4. Unlike many competing solutions, Windows Defender supports Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.
By now, it ought to go without saying that every PC connected to the Internet needs to have security solutions installed and configured. OneCare Live and Windows Defender meet or surpass the capabilities of competitors such as Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm security suite, providing individuals and small businesses with the protection they need—and at a compelling price. If you're running multiple PCs at home or in a small business, you need this kind of protection. OneCare Live and Windows Defender are certainly worth considering.