Regardless of the method you choose, installing the client doesn't require any input from the user aside from initially clicking on a link or setup file (if not using remote push). SPC provides default security policies for each of the agent's security components, which are delivered to computers along with the software.
The only minor installation wrinkle we encountered on our small group of Windows XP/7 test systems was that the SPC initially listed them as "disabled" -- it turns out that while most of the modules go to work immediately upon installation, a reboot is required to activate the firewall protection, even though neither the client nor SPC provided any indication of this. (Once the agent is installed, you can reboot systems remotely from the SPC.)
Symantec's protection agent works with Windows-based PCs and servers and includes anti-virus/anti-spyware, firewall and intrusion prevention modules.
(Click for larger image).
The agent, which normally receives security updates directly from the company's SPC server, can also obtain them directly from Symantec's servers when necessary, which allows protection to remain current even when a computer is off the corporate network for an extended period (e.g. in the case of mobile or remote workers).
As a rule, security software has an (often well-deserved) reputation for noticeably bogging down system performance. For its part, Symantec claims that the SEPSBE agent has less of an impact on system performance than competing products, and while we can't confirm that without a side-by-side comparison, we can say that the Symantec software had a negligible impact on boot time and overall responsiveness on our test systems. We think workers and admins alike will appreciate the fact that the SEPSBE's default firewall policy is unobtrusive and doesn't throw up a steady stream of cryptic (at least to the non-technical) warnings.
Management and Monitoring
Symantec Protection Center's management console does a good job of conveying important security information without requiring you to delve into lots of minutiae to figure out what's going on with your network. A comprehensive dashboard view (the Home screen) makes critical information -- including current alerts, recently detected threats, and whether endpoints are connected and up-to-date -- easy to digest at a glance with liberal use of charts and graphs.
Links to more detailed daily and weekly status reports are also provided, and the reports are automatically delivered via email as well so you don't have to visit the console to get them. The SPC management console is Java-based application that you can access from any system on your network once you've downloaded and installed it by pointing a browser to the SPC server's IP address.
Even though SPC's primary goal is to minimize the amount of configuration you have to do in order to be protected, it doesn't preclude access to advanced customization features if you want them. You can do things such as organize protected computers into groups (two group -- desktops/laptops and servers are set up by default), modify existing policies or create new ones, design custom reports and alert notifications, and even create multiple administrator accounts, including admins with limited rights which is helpful when you want to delegate some administrative tasks while keeping others off limits.
Pricing for SEPSBE with one year of basic support (phone support during business hours only) starts at $35 per protected system for up to 24 systems, and volume pricing is available for 25+, 50+, or 100+ systems wherein pricing drops to $28.13, $26.94, and $25.71, respectively. That cost actually works out to be somewhat lower than many of Symantec's competitors in this area, though some of them do include spam and/or phishing protection. (SEPSBE is available as a 30-day trial download).
Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition 12.0's simplified set up and management --thanks in large part to pre-configured policies and reports make it a good choice for small businesses that want to secure their networks without having to spend an inordinate amount of time on the task.
Price: $35 per protected computer (or lower, depending on number of systems and upgrade eligibility).
Pros: Integrated agent combines anti-virus/anti-spyware and software firewall with intrusion protection; management console pre-configured with policies, notifications, and reports.
Cons: Does not include spam or phishing protection.
Joseph Moran is a longtime technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7 from Friends of Ed.
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