Antivirus software maker Trend Micro has announced a new twist in the competitive enterprise security software market: cash back for tardy virus updates.
The new program, called the Virus Response Service Level Agreement (SLA), guarantees premium support customers that for each infected file submitted for analysis, the company will issue a virus pattern file that can be used by Trend Micro's software to scan for the virus within two hours of the submission or the company will pay a fine.
Those fines will vary, depending on the customer's level of premium support. For participants in Trend Micro's Gold support program, the company will pay $US1,000 for each late virus pattern. That penalty increases to $2,000 per incident for Platinum support customers, and $3,000 for Diamond-level support customers, according to Bob Hansmann, a product manager at Trend Micro.
Trend Micro's existing premium support customers will not be automatically entitled to receive payments under the new plan. Instead, those customers will be required to "upgrade" to the new support programs, according to Hansmann. Details of how the company will move its existing premium support customers into the new program have not yet been completed.
Trend Micro could not immediately provide figures on the cost of their premium support packages.
The program is a refinement of a free virus submission service offered by Trend Micro and was created in response to requests from customers, according to Hansmann.
Under the new program, files submitted by customers will be scanned initially with Trend Micro's own software against all known virus patterns. Assuming the files pass that scan, an engineer will check the suspected files for new viruses. It is not uncommon for customers who have not kept their antivirus software up to date to submit files for inspection that are infected by viruses for which a pattern already exists, Hansmann said.
While the program sounds ambitious, Hansmann said that it covers detection of new viruses, not their removal. "You need to make a distinction between detection and cleaning. Creating a detection is a lot more straightforward than dealing with a cleaning, especially with worms that change Windows INI files and registry settings, drop viruses on your system, and so on," Hansmann said.
"The real problem is not a new virus, but having a worldwide outbreak of Code Red 2 at the same time as all of our premium customers decide to submit a whole bunch of files."
In that case, according to Hansmann, Trend Micro would activate all of its worldwide research labs to handle the increased workload. In addition, the new program exempts Trend Micro from new viruses that target unpatched product source code, such as Code Red or the Melissa Word macro virus.
Brian Burke, an analyst at IDC, says that Trend Micro seems to be on sure footing in offering the money-back guarantee.
"They have statistics that show their service response time is fantastic," Burke said. "Based on the statistics I've seen, Trend Micro wouldn't have been required to default on their agreement with any of the 'blended threat' viruses in recent years -- Code Red or Nimda."
While companies such as Symantec and Network Associates concentrate on delivering integrated product suites, Trend Micro may be trying to distinguish itself by focusing on the basics: good virus detection and prompt service, according to Burke.
"Trend Micro's SLA program is attractive when companies are considering who to go with. It's a value-added service -- if, for some reason, Trend Micro can't get a signature to you, they'll pay you money to help alleviate the cost of downtime."