Should Microsoft Be at the Forefront of Your Security?

By Jabez Gan | Nov 24, 2008 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/windows/article.php/3786961/Should-Microsoft-Be-at-the-Forefront-of-Your-Security.htm

In the year 2007 alone, analyst firm Gartner reported that worldwide security software revenue was expected to total $9.1 billion, with 50 percent of that total coming from antivirus solutions. This is a huge market and it made no sense for Microsoft to pass on a slice of the pie. Although some might have thought Microsoft should leave the security solutions for the experts in the field, Microsoft thought otherwise.

What is Microsoft Forefront?

Microsoft Forefront represents Microsoft’s entry into the enterprise security market. Forefront is a comprehensive security product line that provides protection on the server, client and network sides of the IT environment. According to Microsoft, the Forefront line provides multi-layered protection.

The Forefront line includes the following products:

  • Server Security
    • Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server
    • Microsoft Forefront Security for SharePoint
    • Microsoft Forefront Security for Office Communications Server
  • Client Security
    • Microsoft Forefront Client Security
  • Edge Security
    • Intelligent Application Gateway
    • Internet Security and Acceleration Server

That’s just an outline of the product line. My next article on Forefront will provide more detail.

Forefront uses those products to focus on:

  • Being comprehensive: Proactively checking every networked device on the corporate network, leaving with few or no attack surfaces for threats to infect the corporate network.

  • Integration within IT systems: Who understands Microsoft Windows operating system or Microsoft Windows Servers better than Microsoft? Having tight integration between security systems and Microsoft’s own products means less complexity and better use of IT resources.

  • Simplified product: It’s every system administrator’s dream job to have a successful deployment and an easily manageable environment. Forefront is designed to ensure an organization is well protected without undue complexity.

Why Microsoft Forefront?

Compared with the industry’s big players, Microsoft is a new player in security. Microsoft was known for its lack of good, secure code during the Windows 95-98 era, but with the launch of the company’s Trustworthy Computing Initiative the security of Microsoft products has been greatly improved.

So Microsoft can write secure code now. Why is the Forefront product line a good choice?

Single vendor: Having the same vendor for your entire IT platform means better support. It is very common for vendors to blame each other for software incompatibilities.

Support: Microsoft has invested a lot in supporting customers. Small businesses with small IT environments and tight budgets usually prefer to go for self support, browsing through the Microsoft knowledge base or asking questions in the active Microsoft communities; while the mid-size or large-size enterprises prefer paying Microsoft to fix their issues.

Integration: Managing multiple platforms using different management consoles is not just confusing; it increases human errors and inconsistencies. Microsoft Forefront integrates tightly with Microsoft infrastructure, thus decreasing the management complexities.

We can’t deny the fact that since Microsoft is still new in this security solution field, but Microsoft with the right team and right attitude is heading at the right direction and will be running for the money with the big and matured players out there.

What’s the Business Argument?

Maintaining corporate SLA and system uptime of mission critical and non-mission critical system is crucial in every business. Downtime leads to a bad reputation, increasing the risks of losing businesses. Workers will not be able to work efficiently without a well maintained system.

To ensure that the corporate machines are well protected and secured, three areas need to be monitored constantly. End user client machines must be checked for viruses constantly; servers hosting mission critical applications and files need to be free from threats; while the edge network needs to be monitored proactively for threats from the external network.

As security and threats continue to evolves, Microsoft will need to keep up with the latest trends and how the latest exploits work, which is why Microsoft Forefront has a road map drawn up just so customers will know that Microsoft is committed in providing the most up-to-date security solutions.

When Will It Be Time for Microsoft Forefront?

One common question asked is, when is the right time to migrate to Microsoft Forefront? Based on past experience, the first version of every Microsoft product usually under-performs. Microsoft Forefront, however, did not disappoint. Other than a few minor hiccups here and there, Microsoft Forefront lives up to expectations.

Though it largely works out of the box, Microsoft Forefront currently targets mid to large-size enterprises, so small businesses can safely ignore it for now.

What’s Next?

Microsoft has laid out a road map, and the future looks promising. Microsoft recognizes the need to ensure that its products are up-to-date, with maximum support for the latest Microsoft platform and technologies. At the moment, every product in the line is scheduled to have a newer version released soon. Will there be newer products branded under Microsoft Forefront? As we wrote this article, there were no announcements. One possibility to keep an eye on, however, is a small business Forefront equivalent targeting small businesses that run Windows Server Small Business Server edition.

It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft Forefront is able to sign more customers to increase its share of the security market in the coming years, but don’t expect Microsoft to be able to overtake the big players within the next 5 years.