Microsoft Broadens Customer Service Selections

This week Microsoft merged its customer service and product support service units. Now customers can get their technical questions answered and partners can get product information from the very same organization.

Redmond readers tend to be split on the value of Microsoft support. Many won't consider a desktop alternative because they don't think the Linux vendors or open source community can match Microsoft support. Others are frustrated with long waits and high costs for Microsoft support. What do you think? E-mail me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

OneCare Live Far Better Than I Thought
OneCare is a subscription service from Microsoft that provides a one-stop solution for virus and spyware protection, technical support, and backup and restore capabilities. The wise guy that I am, I asked why we should pay for all these things when they should be fundamental to the operating system (I don't pay extra to protect my sons' Macs from these evils).

A quick peak at the pricing has me thinking differently. Fifty bucks a year to protect three PCs from spyware and viruses is a pretty good deal -- that's less than $20 a machine. If the protection stands up to scrutiny, we're talking major pressure on Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro. Hope they're up to the challenge.

A Penny for Your Spam
Last year Microsoft started talking about ways to fight spam, including micropayments: charging users to send e-mail. That way spammers who sends millions of messages will be priced right out of the junk mail market. What I didn't like was the thought that I might have to pay to send e-mail to my wife and all my girlfriends.

Now AOL and Yahoo have latched onto the concept. If you're willing to pay these providers up to a penny per message, your mail will walk past their spam filters unmolested. Is this a good idea, and how would you fight spam? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Virtually Free
First, VMware gave away a PC-based virtual machine playing program. Now it's sitting on top of a million downloads of its VMware Player (execs tell me there are 4,000 blogs devoted to the app).

The company is bringing the same idea to servers with its free VMware Server, an entry-level tool that could be just the ticket for bringing virtualization to a small environment. And for larger shops, the free tool could be a great way to give server virtualization a whirl; if you like what you see can opt for the higher-end version.

Clearly the folks at VMware are way smarter than me. When Microsoft started getting serious about virtualization, I figured VMware would suffer the same brutal fate as Netscape and WordPerfect. But VMware relentlessly pushed the virtualization envelope and its sales and product offerings have been expanding ever since.

Download VMware Server here.

Here's our report on it.

EMC Expands by Going Small
EMC, the quiet owner of VMware (the virtualization company is the most independent subsidiary of a large owner I've ever seen), deals in marketing its storage wares to large enterprises that can afford top-dollar SANs and arrays. Now the storage maker is adapting its technology for small businesses in a new product line called Insignia. (Maybe EMC should have done some research because Insignia is already used by Best Buy for its own line of PCs and other gizmos.)

A New Script for Compliance
Scriptlogic yesterday announced File System Auditor, a tool that lets corporations see exactly who has done what with company files. One aspect of compliance with laws like Sarbanes-Oxley is insuring that sensitive data is protected from prying eyes and fingers. Smart companies have policies in place to make sure only approved employees can view and modify files with important financial information.

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Policies are one thing, making sure folders and permissions are properly set up is another. That's where File System Auditor comes in. IT folks, the CFO and other qualified executives can see what files are read when and by whom. It shows which folders are accessed and what files are created, modified or deleted. One way to use the product is to spot abuses, internal workers going where they shouldn't be going, especially in the event of an investigation. Alerts can be set up to tell when these abuses take place. But a more core use is to make sure the policies put in place are working and that employees can't go where they don't belong.

According to Scriptlogic executives, getting this kind of detailed information is possible but requires poring over pages and pages of log files. And this doesn't offer the level of reporting or alerts that File System Auditor offers.

Download a 30-day trial here.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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