Centralised virus protection management is an indispensable tool for any network manager and this package is Symantec's variation on the theme. The idea is very simple: you have one or more 'anti-virus server' computers on the network and use these systems to deploy AV software to the various clients around the organisation. The server machine also allows the network manager to instantly view what's happening around the network, virus-wise, and to distribute new virus signature file updates at will or on a regular basis. The Enterprise AV product includes a number of gadgets, such as Virus Protection for Gateways and Virus Protection for Mail Servers, but here we're mainly concerned with the client-server protection. The idea of the system is to install the server machine and then deploy the client software to all the end-user computers in the organisation. A simple enough idea, and indeed it's dead easy to get the server component up and running. When it comes to installing the client package, however, the words 'pain in the arse' just don't come close. Troubles mount
First off, we had a nightmare trying to make the client and server see each other. It appears that if you can't navigate from the client to the server in the Windows Network Neighbourhood, you won't be able to make the client see the server. Even though the client package can supposedly scan for IP addresses rather than needing a Windows network name, we just couldn't get it to work. Even when we told it only to scan the IP address we knew was the server, it wouldn't get going until we'd fiddled with the Windows networking settings. Once we'd cleared up the visibility issues, we figured we'd try the remote deployment option. Thius would enable us, allegedly, to 'push' the client package from the server console to the remote PCs. We were using a workgroup structure, as opposed to a Windows domain, and just couldn't get it to authenticate the administrator account. In the end we gave up, installed the client from the CD, and all suddenly sprang to life - the server and client could finally see each other. Once the two ends communicate, life is far more rosy than it was during the installation phase. The clients obtain their virus definition files from the server quite happily, and the server can communicate with the clients (the management interface is via the Windows Management Console). From the Management Console you can examine and tweak the settings on each of the clients. You can schedule virus scans, examine the logs, tell the client how to download its virus definitions, and so on. The system has the concept of primary and secondary servers, for spreading the load and dealing with servers going down, and when you first go to the management screen you have to nominate one of the servers as the primary. When you modify the common settings for a server they'll be reflected to the clients in due course, and when an alert does come in from a client that has a virus, the Alert Management Server will let you know straight away, including details of what the virus is and what computer(s) are affected. In short, Symantec has done itself a disservice with this package. Once you get it running, it's not actually too bad, but the amount of messing about we had to do to make the server and client actually talk to one another was ridiculous. This is a shame, because as an AV software manufacturer, Symantec has an excellent reputation.

OUR VERDICT

When looking at this kind of product, be sure that it's going to make your life easier. It's essential that you can easily deploy the software, update the virus definitions and monitor virus incidents effortlessly.