The best hardware and software products of the year

InfoWorld's 2010 Technology of the Year Awards recognize the top solutions for business and IT professionals

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Sophos Endpoint Security and Control
Sophos Endpoint Security and Control is more than a bunch of security applications cobbled together into a "security suite." It is a complete system that works together to protect from viruses and malware, allows admins to define a network access control policy, provides for application whitelisting, and can lock down local devices to help prevent data leakage via USB drives and the like. And it does all of this on the widest range of platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, NetWare, and OpenVMS, including both 32- and 64-bit flavors.

The heart of the system is the anti-virus and anti-spyware detection engine, and Sophos uses a single detection engine for both types of threats. The solution also uses the same signature database for both anti-virus and anti-spyware, meaning only one definition update instead of two (or more). MD5 hashing for scanning files reduces unnecessary rescanning and helps keep resource usage to a minimum.

Enterprise Console, the administrative UI, is well laid out and easy to navigate. It doesn't offer too much flash, but keeps useful and vital information close at hand. The graphical dashboard allows admins to quickly see the overall health of the system and the quick links make it easy to access policy items. Being able to click on an item, such as a detected threat, and drill down to get to more specific information about the threat is important for admins.

In McAfee, Symantec, Trend Micro, and Check Point, Sophos has heavyweight competitors with good endpoint security solutions. But Sophos' combination of broad client support, strong security services, ease of administration, and well-rounded reporting set it apart.

-- Keith Schultz

Bit9 Parity Suite 5.0
Now that each year produces more unique malicious programs than legitimate ones, whitelisting-based application control programs have finally come of age. Bit9's Parity Suite has long been a leader in this space, but its capability of linking application control to a reportable risk metric puts it in a class by itself.

Parity meets or exceeds all of the requirements of a whitelisting solution. For example, known-good computers can be scanned to create baselines, and individual files and folders can be whitelisted or blacklisted. Bit9 takes whitelisting to a new level by ranking identified files as to their trust and risk; these rankings can be based upon hash identification, digital signature (if included), software category (if known), and location of the computer. All reported client hashes are compared against known malware and legitimate vendor files. Bit9 Parity is linked to a cloud service with more than 7.5 billion legitimate and malicious files predefined and hashed.

Parity can report a risk metric for each file it discovers on a system, rolling up the cumulative results into a risk rating for the whole computer. Then Parity goes one better and allows the entire enterprise's collection of managed computers to receive an overall risk ranking. That's a pretty significant advancement in the world of computer security. The details can be used by technicians to respond to individual incidents, while the aggregate figures can be reported to management to show overall improvement (or not) over time.  It's hard to beat software that can do that.

This feature not only raises Bit9 Parity Suite 5.0 above competing whitelisting products, but above most computer security products in general.

-- Roger A. Grimes

Autonomic ANSA Platinum Suite
Like most centralized PC power management solutions, Autonomic Software's ANSA Platinum Suite is a general purpose PC management platform that can control power settings under the Windows client and server operating systems. As a rule, centralized PC power managers offer considerably more flexibility than trying to use Group Policy in Active Directory. The ANSA suite stands apart from competitors with a very easy deployment and with the easiest and most granular power policy management we've seen. Best of all, the suite effectively costs nothing – Autonomic will take either the rebate from the power company or 25 percent of the power savings to pay for the software.

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