We’ve all heard of McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro and Sophos. GriSoft is perhaps a less well-known name in the field of corporate antivirus packages but this doesn’t mean it’s a lightweight company with low-end products.
Although the GriSoft range starts with a free-for-personal-use AV package for Windows desktops, business users will want the commercial products. The basic model is the Professional Single Edition, a standalone product for Windows desktop machines. This does all the usual stuff – scheduled and manual virus scans, alerting the user when infected files are opened, and updates of virus definition files (again, both manual and scheduled) via Internet downloads.
The Professional Single Edition doesn’t protect servers – this is a job for the File Server Edition, which supports NT 4, Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003. Again, it’s installed locally on the server and you can run updates and scans by hand or to a schedule.
Next on the list is the Email Server Edition, which includes all the functionality of the File Server Edition but adds the ability to monitor email applications running on your fileservers, using plug-ins to common mail applications such as Exchange and Domino.
Finally, we have the Network Edition, which is a multi-user licence covering both the Professional Single Edition and the File Server Edition. This is where things start getting clever, because the Network Edition uses the ‘ADV Admin’ tool that lets you install, update and monitor all the workstations and servers on the network from a central console, instead of having a bunch of disparate machines managed separately.
We installed the Single, Network and File Server editions on a variety of Windows XP Pro, Windows 2000 Pro and Windows Server 2003 Enterprise servers and everything worked without a hitch. Whichever program you install, you’re given a run-once wizard that asks you to download updates, create a rescue disk and perform an initial scan; you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to any of these, but it’s wise to at least run the update function.
Because it communicates with the rest of the network, the Network Edition is a bit more involved to set up but this additional work is oriented around discovering all the kit on the network and then installing the AV products onto it. You also need to set up the ‘DataCenter’, into which the clients can report their various activities and which in its basic form is an Access-style MDB file.
You define the various machines around the network, putting them into groups if you wish (you can apply an action – such as ‘Run a scan now’ – to either a group or an individual machine, so grouping provides some useful shortcuts). Obviously, there are issues with write permissions to the various remote stations but if you’re running a domain structure and have domain-wide access, there’s no real problem.
The grouping structure allows you to set different action schedules to each individual workstation or group. So, you could tell your servers to update once an hour and scan their disks every night, and tell your workstations to update twice a day and scan themselves weekly.
As well as grouping machines together, you can also define permissions on a user-by-user basis. So you could allow some users access to advanced functions (the scheduler, for instance, or the ‘advanced’ GUI) in their desktop AV installations and permit others only the most basic of functionality.
If the package has any downsides, it’s in the operation of the interface between the central console and the remote clients. There’s a heavy emphasis on using shared directories for console-to-client communication, which can be a pain if you have multiple sites, users working over remote links, and so on. We’d prefer the console application to be able to send the definition files directly to the workstations over the LAN, instead of having to download them to a central area and then point the clients at this folder.
All in all, though, the GriSoft suite is a usable, modestly-priced antivirus package that covers all the bases of corporate computing.
The key considerations for corporate AV packages are: do they support my servers and networked applications (notably email) as well as the desktop; and do they enable me to control my workstations and collate scan/alert data centrally.