Keeping users off-line . . .

FRAMINGHAM (10/03/2003) - Keeping users off-line . . . . . . is the way to secureyour network, jokes Stacey Lum of InfoExpress Inc. in Mountain View, Calif. While noting the impracticality of the idea, the CEO of the 10-year-old boutique security vendor does get his hackles up because companies seldom enforce the few security policies for which end users are responsible, such as having remote workers install patches and upgrades to their laptops. "Where's the enforcement?" he wonders. "Good workers don't get fired for not being in compliance with corporate security policies." He says "nagware," those pesky automated messages that urge users to update their software, doesn't work. That means it falls to IT departments to stop end users from contaminating their comrades with viruses and worms. One way to do that is to install technology that can evaluate the compliance of a remote device before permitting it on the network. Another way is to very publicly terminate the next fool who repeatedly lobs the inevitable Blaster equivalent into your environment. More fun, too.

Less work for you is possible in the struggle to secure your network while still keeping your job. Automated patch management can be the ticket. One vendor's offering is getting a face-lift today. Boston-based ManageSoft Corp. is releasing Security Patch Management Version 6.6 with improved reporting, policy-based "push" updating and continuous monitoring of the Microsoft security patch site, with selective download options. A best practice, suggests CEO Walter Elliott, is to use ManageSoft to establish a subset of machines to run the patch before it's deployed broadly. Also beginning today, the company's ManageSoft suite can deploy and update software on Linux systems. Expect to see versions for Sun's Solaris, IBM's AIX and HP-UX before New Year's Eve.

Let's say you're thinking about security compliance, and your business is in an industry with strict privacy regulations, such as the medical and financial sectors. You may be responsible for securing e-mail between doctors and their patients, or financial advisers and their clients -- even if the latter users don't have secure systems. According to Terry Olkin, chief technology officer at Secure Data in Motion Inc. (better known as Sigaba), a strict reading of the rules means that if a doctor responds to a query from a patient via e-mail and the patient replies, that patient's message now has to meet HIPAA privacy standards. With the San Mateo, Calif., vendor's release tomorrow of Version 4.0 of its Sigaba Secure E-mail software, both parties can be encrypted through the product's Send Anywhere feature. The upgrade also includes federated authentication, so single sign-on is possible for users within trusted organizations. Prices start at around US$50,000.

Not all network problems are security-related. Sometimes your applications are acting flaky. But how do you really know? Perhaps if you used today's release of ClearSight Analyzer 3.0, you could see what was going on -- literally. Like a complete video exchange of a video/voice-over-IP conversation. If the users experience jitter, so does the network analyst. No more need to delve into arcane packet analysis. Of course, the product lets you easily get to the packet details, but you probably won't need to, since the problems are much more obvious to behold. And it's not just VoIP. The behavior of applications such as Domain Name System operations, Oracle databases, Web servers and much more can be observed. San Mateo-based ClearSight Networks Inc.'s software sells for $7,995. Bargain shoppers can get it for $5,995 through December. If you wait a month, you can buy a version that monitors full-duplex 10/100 Ethernets and one that oversees Gigabit Ethernet. By the end of the quarter, there will be a version for monitoring remote sites.

Take note: Two key vendor barometers in the shift away from licensed software hit milestones in September. Application service provider Surebridge Inc. passed the $100 million mark in booked business, and online-only CRM supplier signed up its 100,000th user. Many smaller ASPs are also thriving. Maybe the dot didn't bomb after all.

Conduct Business

Next week, Commerce One Inc. will ship Conductor 6.5, its process automation application for procurement management. The upgrade now has more than 70 standard business documents, such as invoices and purchase orders. It has also more than doubled to 200 the number of adapters for vertical market applications.

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