- No need for a local server
- Fast deployment
- Remote management via a browser
- Choice of deployment methods
- Windows only
- Limited anti-spam and mail-borne virus protection
- A security agent must be installed on each PC or server to be protected
In an effort to make its Worry-Free Business Security product line even more attractive to small companies, Trend Micro has come up with a hosted implementation that doesn't need a server, and can be used to protect mobile as well as office-bound workers. It's also a lot easier to deploy and much cheaper compared to going down the in-house route.
This service isn't entirely new — it's been around for a while under the guise of Business Security Hosted. However, with the latest 3.0 release comes not only the name change to Worry-Free Business Security Services (WFBS Services), but extensive tweaking to the features to match what's possible using alternative, on-premise, WFBS products.
As with those products, the emphasis is very much on protecting Windows-based systems (servers, PCs or notebooks) against a variety of common internet threats — including viruses, phishing attacks and spyware. The same Smart Scan technology is used to support the new service, with scanning duties split between the protected systems themselves and servers in remote Trend Micro datacentres. This minimises the impact on local processing and makes for much speedier updates when new threats are identified.
A customisable desktop firewall is also included, along with the ability to filter spam — although only at the client end, and then only for users configured to pull down mail using POP3. Protection against threats transmitted via portable USB devices or via public Wi-Fi networks is another core feature, as is the ability to block access to harmful websites using Trend Micro's hosted Web Reputation service. However, custom URL filtering, which is included as standard in the on-premise WFBS product, isn't available in the hosted version.
Having tried WFBS Services before, we were keen to see how the hosted implementation compared, and found it much the same in terms of features but a lot easier to deploy. That's mainly because there's no server software to configure — just a small client security agent (CSA) on each Windows server and desktop to be protected. On the downside, this can take a while to roll out — especially on a large network. However, there's a good choice of options, including the ability to email a self-service link to users.
A self-contained security application in its own right, the Trend Micro agent can be managed locally if required: users can, for example, initiate their own scans and change their security settings. Most administrators, however, will do what we did and remove some — if not all — of the local rights, and then manage everything centrally from the web-based console. Alternatively, management can be wholly outsourced to a reseller, with Trend partners able to integrate management of both on-premise and hosted WFBS sites using a product called Worry-Free Remote Manager.
Once deployed, the agents start working straight away, using default settings designed to suit the majority of small-business customers. The management console can be run from Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers and we found it both responsive and easy to use. A dashboard display shows the current threat level, agent status and so on, and there are useful facilities to discover and group clients together to make for easier management on large networks.
Behaviour monitoring and the ability to lock-down files and folders to prevent data theft are other nice touches. Reporting tools are also included as standard and, overall, the WFBS Service performed well in our tests, correctly identifying and blocking test virus downloads and attempts to pull in spyware from 'dodgy' sites.
Some tweaking of the settings was, inevitably, required — for example, to include mapped drives in scans and handle the odd exception. However, once we were confident the product was doing what was required, we could more or less leave it alone. That includes the update side of things: new signatures and agent updates are distributed automatically, leaving little to configure.
Of course there's no server to collect updates, so one of the agents is delegated to perform this task then push them out locally to others on the network. The 'active' agent is elected and will change from time to time, but its performance can be hampered by the amount of processing involved. An option to dedicate a server or desktop to the task would be a welcome addition.
Other concerns include the lack of support for anything other than Windows, which means having to make separate arrangements to protect Apple Mac and Linux systems. The lack of facilities to block spam and other malware spread via in-house Exchange and IMAP mail servers is also a worry. That's not a big issue in small companies with hosted messaging, perhaps, but a possible deal-breaker for larger organisations. Likewise the lack of URL filtering, although Trend Micro does have a separate hosted email security product and you can always opt for the on-premise WFBS if you must have more flexible URL filtering.
The target market for WFBS-Services is companies with up to 100 users, where it's quick to deploy, easy to manage and compares well in terms of functionality and effectiveness both to more traditional on-premise solutions and alternative hosted services. Licenses start at £37.30 (ex. VAT) per user/year (2 users) with a sliding scale down to £16.09 per user on larger deployments.