Case Study: Picking the right virus software?

Stung by Melissa, Attachmate put anti-virus on all its desktops -- but the first product it chose wasn't right

It takes an enterprise-wide strategy with multiple layers of protection across the entire IT infrastructure to keep destructive viruses at bay. A virus infestation can result in lost corporate data, employee downtime, and time-consuming recovery measures Those disruptions -- and their potentially high costs -- have prompted organizations to move anti-virus protection beyond the desktop to include servers and Internet gateways, and to seek centralized control and management of their anti-virus efforts. Attachmate learned the hard way. Attachmate, a worldwide supplier of enterprise information access and management software, was hit hard by the Melissa virus back in March 1999. Despite having McAfee VirusScan 4 protection on its clients, about 15 percent of the company's 700 employee desktops at the company's headquarters in Bellevue Washington were infected with Melissa. In a recovery effort that took days, Attachmate discovered that not only did it lose data, but in many cases it had to wipe drives and reinstall operating systems and applications because recovery was impossible. At that time, Attachmate mandated employees use desktop anti-virus software, but administrators had no control over who used it, upgraded it, or uninstalled it. Employees were taking matters into their own hands, often disabling the anti-virus software because it slowed down their systems or interfered with applications. As a result, Melissa wasn't the last of the company's virus problems. "We realized we had a huge problem," says Attachmate senior network administrator Randy Brown. Brown and the IT team decided to add another layer of protection, one that would detect and remove viruses hidden in e-mail attachments. Brown evaluated products from several vendors, including McAfee, Symantec, and Trend Micro. "We opted to go with McAfee because we had a longstanding relationship with them and they gave us a good deal on products," he says. The company first purchased McAfee's GroupShield Exchange for Microsoft Exchange and deployed it on 20 Compaq Proliant 1600 servers worldwide. The product didn't play well in Attachmate's environment, however. According to Brown, it caused servers to slow down, users had trouble opening e-mail while the anti-virus software was scanning, and, on some occasions, things just stopped working. "The bottom line was that we ran into more problems with it than without it," he says. Resolution from the vendor wasn't forthcoming. After getting hit again by another virus, company executives were convinced that something had to change. Attachmate, just midway through a multi-year contract, decided to cut its losses and swap out GroupShield Exchange. From his evaluation of anti-virus products, Brown had learned that Trend Micro's products were highly regarded in the industry, while his peers had less than rave reviews for Symantec's anti-virus solutions. Brown acquired Trend Micro's ScanMail for Microsoft Exchange. "We deployed it on our 20 Exchange servers and the product worked beautifully," he says. It took about two days to remotely load the 20 servers, including a few overseas. From that point on, Trend Micro became Attachmate's vendor of choice for its enterprise anti-virus strategy. Content with the performance of ScanMail on the company's Exchange servers, Brown is looking forward to a planned upgrade to Exchange 2000 from the currently installed Exchange v5.5 -- which will also necessitate upgrading server hardware, as well.

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