When it comes to security investments, many IT pros relegate antivirus software to the bottom of the security list. It seems that firewalls, proxy servers, tape backups, and RAID configurations come first and foremost in data protection.

Take, for example, my first week in a former system administrator position. I conducted a primary check of the server and workstation setup. In the process, I noticed mirrored hard drives, uninterruptible power supplies, and tape backups—yet even though users were running antivirus software on their systems, the definitions were over 14 months old.

A product in this condition would be more beneficial not installed at all, as it was simply consuming resources. Come to think of it, the former admin must have agreed with me to a degree, as the server antivirus software, purchased five months prior to my arrival, was neatly tucked away on a shelf. It wasn’t installed on any of the company’s production or test servers.

How did everything turn out? After six inoculations, five server software installations, and numerous client updates, we were virus-free and in a healthy position to keep it that way.

An invaluable tool for these updates is a login script that automatically scans and overwrites outdated files as users log in to the domain. If you’d like to download a free copy of my own batch file script, click here.

Choose carefully
Picking the right product can be a daunting task. But fear not: Whether you’re the administrator of your personal computer at home or of a heterogeneous enterprise network, I am about to make the decision a whole lot easier.

InoculateIT from Computer Associates has a version specifically tailored for virtually any environment. For those that take work home, InoculateIT Personal Edition version 5 will keep your machine safe—and trust me, it is sure to fit your budget. This program is fully featured with built-in automatic updates and real-time scanning.

InoculateIT Personal Edition provides full-powered antivirus protection.

What really puts this software far above the competition is its price. If you are running Windows 9x or NT Workstation, and you have access to the Internet, you can download the Personal Edition software here absolutely free! Computer Associates doesn’t stop there, either. You’re also entitled to unlimited software updates and tech support at no cost.

The package is under 3 MB, so the download is painless. The same goes for the installation. When you start the setup program, you can either choose Custom to specify startup and real-time scanning configurations or Express, which simply installs the recommended features.

As a system administrator, I know that virus protection on a personal computer and virus protection on an enterprise are two completely different things. System scans, software updates, and monitoring the various services on servers and workstations could very easily become a full-time position.

InoculateIT Advanced Edition for Windows NT has been designed to relieve administrators of these monotonous woes. The network management premise of this software has been borrowed from the NT domain model. This is an incredibly smart move, as Windows buffs will find a familiar product right out of the box.

InoculateIT for Windows NT, like the Personal Edition, offers two setup options: Express Setup and Custom Setup.

For the most part, InoculateIT Advanced Edition’s install process is every bit as easy as the Personal Edition. The differences, however, are important.

For heterogeneous networks with NT and NetWare servers, you must perform a custom install and select the NetWare Domain Manager option. With this option, your protection is not limited to an NT-native environment. The CD also has options for Lotus Notes and Exchange support.

You install these packages merely by clicking on the desired option. You can install InoculateIT clients for Windows 9x, Windows 3.11, and DOS on their corresponding machines for complete network support.

When you launch the Inoculate console, you’ll notice a very user-friendly interface consisting of three utilities:

  • The Domain Manager
  • The Local Scanner
  • The Service Manager

The Domain Manager
The Domain Manager lets you set up InoculateIT domains from servers and workstations with the software installed. Simply name your domain(s), delegate a master for distributions, and then add desired systems with the software installed.

The Local Scanner

InoculateIT’s Local Scanner checks directories you request using a simple interface.

The Local Scanner is more powerful than the name would suggest. With NT full version or even the Windows 9x client, I was able to connect to NT shares on my network, put in the NetBIOS password, and scan any computer without having to install software on the remote machine.

The Service Manager
The Service Manager sets the program startup configuration, domain-wide distributions, and broadcast settings. TCP/IP is the default network protocol, but other options are available. The broadcast levels are completely customizable, which deters worry of excess traffic.

If your systems can handle a little extra load, InoculateIT’s real-time scanning should definitely be implemented. Essentially, this service monitors all viral entry points such as the Internet, floppy drives, e-mail, mapped drives, and so on. You are free to turn this off, but I do not recommend it. Just last week, this feature locked out an attachment infected with the Melissa virus.

AutoDownload Manager
The updates are handled by the AutoDownload Manager, and they can be easily scheduled to ensure that your systems possess current definition files. After a download, the master server then propagates the new files to the remainder of the InoculateIT domain.

A small drawback to this software is that the Download Manager is a separate program from the Inoculate console. Everything could easily have been located in one interface, as it is in the Personal Edition.

The Download Manager tracks update activity.

Although autodownloads and updates will put a smile on the face of any administrator, the other con I found is that the minimum automatic download interval is one month. Personally, I find this a bit on the long side, especially when competitors have updates readily available weekly.

The lowdown
So what is the overall consensus of the InoculateIT family? With the Advanced Edition sporting a price tag of just under $700, this product offers mighty bang for the buck. A Workgroup edition is available at $495 or less per server license. The only feature lacking from the Advanced Edition is Internet protection.

As for the Personal Edition, even though it is completely free, it’s not limited and will keep your data as safe as any other antiviral product on the market.

System requirements
In a nutshell, if a machine can run its operating system, the appropriate InoculateIT version will install and operate hitch-free.

InoculateIT 5 Personal Edition

Hardware Requirements:

  • 8 MB of RAM
  • Software Requirements:

    • Windows 9x—Windows 95 and up
    • Windows NT Workstation—NT 4.0 SP3 on Intel

    InoculateIT 4.53 Advanced Edition & Workgroup Edition for Windows NT

    Hardware Requirements:

    • 32 MB of Memory,
    • 20 MB of disk space for standalone;
    • 40 MB when using network distribution.

    Software Requirements:

    • Advanced Edition Server—NT 3.51 and up
    • Windows NT client—NT workstation 3.51 and up
    • Windows 3.x client—Windows 3.x
    • Macintosh client—Macintosh 6.0 and up
    • DOS client—DOS 5.0 and up

    Trent Cook is a system administrator and TechRepublic contributing writer. He’s earned MCSE, MCP+I, CNA, and A+ accreditations. When not in the office (and depending on the season), he is either riding his Virago 1100 or hitting the slopes.

    If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.