As part of the further expansion of its nascent Security Business Unit, Microsoft Corp. Tuesday will announce the availability of Windows Rights Management Services, an add-on for Windows Server 2003 that is meant to help enterprises control the ways in which documents, e-mails and other information is used.
RMS is related to technology that has been used for years to protect valuable digital content such as music and movies. The basic concept is that the creator of the content is able to define who can read the document, for how long and what other actions the users can take in relation to it.
For example, a human resources manager creating an Excel spreadsheet of the results of employee drug tests could specify that only executives could print or copy-and-paste portions of the document and that departmental managers have read-only access that expires after 48 hours.
In Windows RMS, this is accomplished through the use of a set of predefined server-side templates that customers can use to define who belongs to which groups, and the content and access rights for each group.
"If youre using something like this, then accidental misuse goes away," said Jon Murchinson, product manager at Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash. "It takes away that excuse. All of the information thats created out there right now is available and can be sent out, and thats the issue were trying to address."
Microsoft officials said they spoke with a number of large customers about the need for this type of technology and what features and capabilities it needed to include. Many of the customers Microsoft met with said their companies had document use policies but no way of enforcing them. And they also stressed that whatever the RSM solution was, it needed to be easy and intuitive to use or risk having people ignore it.
As a result, the client-side manifestations of RMS are essentially drop-down menus and buttons in applications such as those included in Office 2003, which are all RMS-enabled.
For more information on Microsofts Office 2003, including news, analysis and review, check out eWEEK.coms special report on the productivity suite.
For companies that want to include RMS features in custom applications, Microsoft also is releasing both server and client SDKs. The kits will enable developers to pick and choose which RMS attributes they want.
Also, coming later this year will be an RMS release for Internet Explorer. This will allow users to read RMS-protected documents in the browser and will also enable the protection of Web-based content, Murchinson said.
In addition, Microsoft is working with security vendor Rainbow Technologies Inc. on the development of an appliance that will allow customers to deploy RMS in environments that arent connected to the public Internet, such as classified government networks.
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