Sometimes, when you discover a helpful new service, you just have to say to yourself, "It's about time!" That was my reaction earlier this month when Microsoft announced the Microsoft Security Update for home users and small businesses.
I always recommend that readers who email me for advice sign up for the Microsoft Security Notification Service (available at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/?url=/technet/security/bulletin/notify.asp ). This TechNet-based service sends an email notification every time Microsoft provides a security-focused patch, hotfix, or alert. The service can be a crucial source of information for busy IT departments. In addition, many of the bulletins apply to virtually every Windows user.
However, a significant percentage of the readers who email me for advice (approximately 10 percent) get back in touch with me after they receive their first security alert, requesting that I translate the bulletin into English. Many Windows Client UPDATE readers are power users or small office/home office (SOHO) users with small networks; most aren't technically proficient. These users have a greater interest than the average user in computer technology but don't have the level of expertise that a professional IT worker would have. So these folks, who are most likely at greater risk of attack than the average enterprise IT department, also have the least understanding of the information that the Security Notification Service provides. Microsoft's response to this situation, in the form of the Microsoft Security Update, should provide usable information for the less computer-savvy and serve as a resource that IT professionals can recommend to their families and friends. You can find details about Microsoft Security Update at http://register.microsoft.com/subscription/subscribeme.asp?id=166 .
More About SOHO Networking
Last week's commentary about keeping SOHO networking simple garnered quite a few responses, which, surprisingly enough, were all in agreement with the commentary's point of view. I was amused that many of the messages were from people who are using inexpensive hubs and routers that provide Network Address Translation (NAT) and DHCP services, rather than using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) and Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) with Windows XP. Those routers and hubs were the original inspiration for the commentary because they're the cause of the problems that SOHO users are encountering. Although this hardware is in many cases easy to set up and configure, a significant percentage of users have problems with it. I received an almost equal number of messages from readers who have had bad experiences with these easy-to-use networking devices as I received from people recommending them for their ease of use.
These responses demonstrate what we probably already know: that although many one-size-fits-all solutions can work, the situations in which those solutions don't work can cause the most aggravation. Because the hubs and routers that I wrote about are targeted at the SOHO user who doesn't have the technical skills to easily diagnose and troubleshoot potential networking problems, when they fail, the problem can seem bigger than it truly is.