Microsoft Eases DRM Tasks

Windows Rights Management Services offers high-end control but only to sites that have Microsoft's latest products.

Microsoft Corp.s Windows Rights Management Services for Windows Server 2003 offers very capable, simple-to-use digital rights management capabilities that can help control the flow of documents inside and outside a company, making sure documents are seen only by those who should see them.

eWEEK Labs used Windows Rights Management Services, which shipped last month, to deploy solid digital rights management capabilities to content created in Microsoft Office or sent through the Outlook mail client. We could also enable users to control who could view content, and we could deploy preconfigured templates for standard content types.

Windows Rights Management Services is priced starting at $37 for each client license; an external user license is available for $18,066.

Like many of the new Microsoft technologies, Windows Rights Management Services will be useful only for companies that have moved fully to the latest Microsoft products. Windows Rights Management Services will work only on Windows Server 2003 and only with content created in Office 2003. The mail features work only with Outlook 2003; to view the content, recipients will need Office 2003 or Rights Management Add-on for Internet Explorer, which was still in beta at the time of our tests.

Windows Rights Management Services

The strongest features of Microsofts Windows Rights Management Services are user capabilities for controlling by whom, when and how content is viewed and accessed. However, this is yet another example of a new Microsoft product that requires the companys latest server OS and Office suite, meaning very few companies will be able to take advantage of Windows Rights Management Services capabilities. The product is priced at $37 for each client license; an external user license costs $18,066.
















  • PRO: Very good user interface for protecting content; can control forwarding options through e-mail.
  • CON: Currently works only with the newest Microsoft servers and Office suite; lacks deployment options.

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Microsoft will provide a full software development kit for developers who want to port the rights management features to their applications. But we wish the company had used this kit to add the rights management capabilities to its older Office suites through a plug-in or add-on. Without these features, few companies will be able to take advantage of the rights management capabilities.

Therefore, at least for the next few months, we cant recommend Windows Rights Management Services for any company that hasnt already made a significant move to Office 2003. This is unfortunate because Windows Rights Management Services is one of the better document-based rights management systems weve seen. For users, Windows Rights Management Services makes it easy to add rights controls to any Office document. To add controls to any content, we simply clicked the permission icon in the tool bar or chose the Permission dialog via the File menu. From here we simply added the e-mail addresses of users who would have Read or Change rights to the content. The More Options button brought up an advanced window from which we could choose other options, such as whether the recipient could print or copy content.

We especially liked how Rights Management Services added a Do Not Forward option when sending messages in Outlook 2003. This made it possible to send important information without worrying about inappropriate forwarding or reply-to-alls. Installation and setup of Windows Rights Management Services was simple and straightforward. For rights management to work, the server must be part of an Active Directory domain.One of our favorite management features made it possible to create custom templates to protect specific types of documents. These templates can be deployed to users, who can select the appropriate template when protecting content.

We would like to see more options for deploying features. For example, we had to manually add the templates to each users system or employ another management tool to automate this deployment. Similarly, the product requires the Windows Rights Management client on each system that uses these features.

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Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at