Microsoft's OneCare Handles Security for You

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Microsoft Corp. is stepping up to the plate, and coming out with aproduct designed to take care of a lot of your security and performanceissues for you.

On the road to this new product, Microsoft acquired Giant Software Co.,an anti-spyware firm, on Dec. 17, 2004.

This company was relatively unknown in the industry but packed a hugepunch in the anti-spyware market. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft made somechanges to the product and called it Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta 1. LaterMicrosoft announced that it would provide Microsoft AntiSpyware tocustomers for free when the final version is ready to be released. Manypeople applauded this PR move and opened their arms a little toMicrosoft; steps like these are ideal for Microsoft to gain back thetrust of the public when it comes to security.

In order to take advantage of AntiSpyware, you must be running Windows XPSP2. Microsoft sees this new product as an additional benefit of usingthis more secure platform. And this AntiSpyware/XP SP2 combination alsofits nicely within their ''Trustworthy Computing'' initiative (which youmay remember as their drive over the last several years to improve thesecurity within their products).

Additionally, I would not be surprised if Microsoft is now working on anenterprise version, as well. I suspect this version will become availablefor the enterprise user, but it will not be free of charge. Instead, thecorporate version of AntiSpyware may be licensed on a subscription basis.It is too early to tell, yet.

When I first heard about this acquisition, I asked myself, ''Why wouldMicrosoft acquire an antispyware company?'' If you have been followingMicrosoft's acquisitions recently, you will know they also have acquiredSybari Software, makers of anti-virus, anti-spam and content-filteringtechnology, as well as anti-virus vendor GeCAD Software. To me, it isobvious that acquiring Giant Software and repackaging their product asMicrosoft AntiSpyware is the beginning of Microsoft's move into thesecurity arena, with Sybari and GeCAD technologies supporting this move.

But why are they doing this?

Windows OneCare is your answer.

Microsoft is currently hard at work on a comprehensive PC health servicefor consumers and small businesses. This is designed to help protect andmaintain your PC (according to Microsoft.com). Some of the featuresincluded with Windows OneCare are:

  • Automatically updated anti-virus, anti-spyware and two-way (outboundand inbound) firewall protection;
  • Performance and reliability tools, such as disk cleanup, hard drivedefragmentation, and file repair;
  • Boot-time information and proactive support tools to help improvethe customer experience;
  • Backup and restore capabilities to CD or DVD, and
  • Simple point of reference to check the overall health of a system.

    If you own a small business or do not have the time to stay up on yourPC's security, and you want to keep your computer safe and running atoptimum capacity, then Windows OneCare is designed for you. It is gearedto meet your security and performance needs without you having to doanything more than subscribe.

    Ryan Hamlin, general manager of the Technology Care and Safety Group atMicrosoft, states that, ''Windows OneCare is the next major advance inour ongoing efforts to help keep consumers' Windows-based PCs 'healthy'in a way that's simple and as worry-free as possible for them.'' He goeson to say, ''We're designing the service so it will continually updateand evolve over time, helping to ensure that our customers will have themost complete and effective protection and safety services in place everytime they turn on their PC.''

    This is a brilliant move on the part of Microsoft.

    With this product, they can address all of the major security concerns ofthe typical consumer and small business operator. In the good old days,security was not a priority for Microsoft. But fast forward to today andit is very obvious that Microsoft is cleaning up its image. They havebeen dedicated to security for some time now and you can see the payoffin a more secure Windows product.

    The second question I asked myself was, ''Will the public buy thisproduct or subscription service from Microsoft?'' I believe many will.For people who have been buying Microsoft products for years, it is justeasier to add security to any existing contracts. If you are alreadypurchasing 75 percent to 80 percent of Microsoft products, it makes senseto let the company that develops the products secure them.

    And yet OneCare is much more than just an automatic security fix. Manyconsumers are not fully comfortable with defragging, disc cleanup, andfile repair. Backup and restore are actions they'd rather not do. Andthey might not know how to check the overall health of their system. Ormaybe they know all of these things but don't want to do any of it.OneCare offers to take care of security and performance for you. Howconvenient.

    The cynics would argue that it is ridiculous for Microsoft to have asecurity product. In fact, they might even say that the more holes thereare in Microsoft products, the more market share there will be forOneCare. They are making money off of security holes in their ownproducts.

    Regardless of your position on this new service, you can expect publicbeta versions of Windows OneCare to appear later this year. Microsoft issteamrolling its way into the security arena whether you like it or not.

    Can we trust Microsoft to secure our products and our future? Only timewill tell, but I am very excited about the outcome.

    Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Group anda freelance technical writer. He has a forthcoming 'how-to' book onVMware Workstation, and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE,MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.

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