Symantec's Multi-tier Protection is powerful and flexible but also complicated. It's built around a three-component model (management server/database, management console and client agent), with an additional Exchange add-on for server-based mail scanning and spam filtering.The server component acts as a central repository for client information, accessed via the management console, which also acts as a tool for creating client agent install packages. Typically the management agent and server are installed on the same system. The client agent is installed on desktops and scans those computers for threats.We didn't get off to a good start with Symantec's Multi-tier Protection. For one, the management interface can't run on Windows Vista Ultimate even though it has IIS incorporated (the console will run on Windows XP, however). Then, after switching to Windows Server 2008, and after jumping through a few hoops to make it run on IIS 7, we finally had the management console up and running. It provides immense configurability, with very detailed firewall settings, virus scan policy management, client setting locks (so local users can't play with their settings) and the ability to shut down external storage devices like USB keys. Its alerting, logging and reporting systems are top notch.The client agent, meanwhile, can be set up to be managed either locally on the host system or exclusively through the management console. If it's locally managed, it works rather like a basic security suite. It doesn't provide the array of protection mechanisms we see in other products - it does anti-malware, anti-spyware, firewall protection and application control and not much more - but what it does it does very well. The latest version is also, thankfully, much lighter than previous iterations of Endpoint security. On our test system, the agent took up only 22MB of system memory when idle, and didn't cause the kind of system churn we've seen with older versions of the Endpoint security client.While it's still a little too enterprisey for our tastes, there's no question that Symantec's Multi-tier Protection provides sterling protection for client systems and powerful tools for managing that protection, all at a bargain price. The learning curve can be a little steep, but Symantec provides quality help and once you get it up and running you'll have a powerful security system at your disposal.
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