Microsoft Delivers Document Security

Microsoft on Tuesday released Windows Rights Management Services (RMS), an add-on to Windows Server 2003 that allows organizations to add digital rights protection to information such as documents and e-mail.

Windows RMS is the last of three parts that organizations will need to be able to set and enforce rules on information usage. Microsoft in September released the Windows Rights Management Client and last month launched Office 2003, which supports Windows rights management in Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

The products are designed to enforce good-faith notes, such as "Confidential," commonly used on documents and e-mail messages. Users can restrict access, copying, forwarding, and printing of documents and e-mail messages, for example. Also, a document or e-mail can be set to expire, after which time it becomes unreadable, Microsoft said.

"Most companies have clear rules on information usage, but they lack enforcement," said Jon Murchinson, product manager at Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft. The vendor found "a lot of excitement" among potential users about the prospect of enforcing rules with technology, he said.

Windows RMS is envisioned as a platform for enterprise digital rights management, meaning that any software vendor can create applications to work with the technology. So far, however, the only applications that support Windows RMS are the four main Office 2003 applications. Microsoft is in talks with other software makers for expanded support of Windows RMS, Murchinson said.

Recognizing that Office 2003 is very new, Microsoft will offer an add-on to Internet Explorer that allows users to view protected content without Office 2003. The IE add-on is due out later this year, Murchinson said.

The Windows RMS system authenticates users through a credential handed out by the system. It also requires each computer associated with the system to be activated. Microsoft offers an online service to activate hardware, but is also working with Rainbow Technologies to sell a box that allows companies to activate PCs. This hardware box is due sometime next year, Microsoft said.

The Windows RMS add-on to Windows Server 2003 costs $37 per client access license. It runs on Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Datacenter Edition, and Web Edition, but not on Windows Small Business Server 2003, Microsoft said.

The Windows Rights Management Client is available as a free download. The client is required for each desktop and handles communications with Windows RMS on the server, according to Microsoft.

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