As of Thursday, Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is available free for small businesses with up to 10 workstations. In case you have not heard of it before, Microsoft Security Essentials is Microsoft's free anti-malware software for Windows PCs. Though it's been out for only a year, it's generally well-regarded by security professionals.
Based on the same anti-malware engine found in Microsoft's enterprise software, MSE has elicited favorable reviews from independent labs and kudos from computer users. Indeed, MSE is used by more than 30 million customers in 74 different countries. Of course, it should be pointed out that MSE has been free all the while for home-based businesses users and consumers. Making it free to small businesses is more of a licensing change than an update or new version of the application.
An earlier blog entry explains Microsoft's reasons for the change:
This new availability will allow small businesses to take advantage of Microsoft's no-cost antimalware service that will help them save time, save money and remain productive while protecting them from viruses, spyware and other malicious threats. With Microsoft Security Essentials, small businesses with less than 10 PCs can feel safe knowing they are using an industry certified antimalware that utilizes the same core malware protection engine that drives Microsoft's enterprise solutions solution and is backed by Microsoft's leading Security Response resources.
Of course, Microsoft has a vested interest in small businesses-small companies do grow bigger after all-but the move will be welcomed by small businesses. Even for larger companies, this might represent an opportunity for administrators or IT managers to perform a larger deployment to study the performance of Microsoft's anti-malware product.
In case you are contemplating a mixed deployment of MSE with another commercial anti-malware solution, though, I would not advise that. While it might be possible to bring down costs by using MSE to lower the overall licenses required, taht would just make your deployment more complicated. Overall, mid-sized businesses should acquire an end-point security solution that allows them to centrally maintain and manage protected workstations on the company network.
Anyway, businesses with more than 10 PCs can check out Microsoft's Forefront line of products to address their security needs. Alternatively, Microsoft Security Essentials can be downloaded from here.