Symantec has launched Hosted End-Point Protection, a new product and service combination aimed at small and medium-size businesses. The product includes client software that resides on end-user Windows machines and a management console hosted by Symantec. The agent software includes a firewall, host intrusion protection, and anti-virus and anti-spyware scanning. It can check Web, e-mail and IM traffic for malware and viruses. We took the service for a test run in our lab.
Client installation is straightforward, though it requires a reboot when complete. Companies have three choices to install the client software: log in to the hosted Symantec portal, then download and install the client on end user machines; send end users an e-mail with a link to download and install the software; or download a distribution package that can be pushed out or manually installed.
The second option, while convenient for IT, may not be the best route, because it encourages the bad habit of trusting links and installing software from e-mail. This could lead to users being tricked by malicious e-mails with innocent-seeming links with viruses or to malware-infected Web sites.
The management portal is hosted by Symantec, but administrators can access the portal via the Web for basic operational tasks including generating reports and monitoring clients for issues such as quarantined files, virus infections and systems in need of attention. Updates to the client software are pushed out automatically by Symantec.
When the client software is first installed, it checks in with the management portal and joins a default group. Administrators can then access the portal to move clients into different groups. Policy choices are extremely limited in the initial rollout of the product: each protection type is either on or off. That's it. Symantec says it will evaluate new options and settings as customers' needs and desires change.
End users have limited ability to override some policies. For instance, they can disable the auto-protection policy for fifteen minutes. When this occurs, the computer is labeled as needing attention so administrators can correct this issue if they notice it during the fifteen-minute window. Users can also turn the firewall on or off if allowed by administrators.
The end-point client is very similar to other anti-virus and host protection suites offered by Symantec and competitors. The biggest differences are the hosted management console and the pricing, which follows the typical SaaS model. The price starts at $2.15 per user, per month for the firewall and intrusion prevention. Add Web and e-mail protection and the price jumps to $5.90 per user per month for up to 100 users. A business with 20 people would pay $118 monthly, $1,416 annually for all features.
Symantec Hosted End Point Protection is a step up from consumer end-point products, and though it's a step or two down from enterprise systems, it has the features SMBs need. The lack of configuration options is a blessing for organizations that want simplicity, but IT shops that prefer more control over their systems may chafe under its limitations. That said, we believe this product/service combination is a solid fit for an under-served market.