Small businesses looking to cut down on their IT costs now have one more reason to embrace Microsoft’s offerings, especially in the area where security is concerned. Not because Windows has magically become more hardened or robust: rather, the Redmond company has announced that it will be authorizing its Security Essentials security software for use in small businesses…for free.

For some people, the act of installing antivirus software and keeping it up-to-date can be a hassle. However, there is no denying that most Windows-based PCs do need that added layer of protection to secure it from the swarm of malware floating out in cyberspace.

Of course, to do that, home and personal users often take the cheapest way out by installing free security software that provides a basic level of protection. This is good and all, but small businesses usually have to cough out some money for proper antivirus software, because the free alternatives have EULA clauses limiting their use to home or personal PCs.

That is set to change though: Microsoft has just made an announcement claiming that its free Microsoft Security Essentials software will be made legally available for free to small businesses from early October. This marks a departure from the software’s earlier licensing terms, which limited it to purely home or personal usage.

Microsoft claims that the company had a change of heart because it has deemed that enterprise security software was too costly and complex for such businesses. Because of that, there was a need to release its easy-to-use security client to that particular market segment.

In addition, visiting the Microsoft Security Essentials home page confirmed our findings: under the Download button was a small message stating that the small business version is ‘coming soon’, as shown below:

However, this move may probably end up as a double-edged sword, especially for Microsoft themselves. For one, Security Essentials has already been viewed by some security vendors as an anti-competitive tactic to draw customers away from other free or paid alternatives. Now that the company is making its entry into the business market with a free offering, an area where free-to-use software is relatively uncommon, it is almost certain that thing are probably going to get interesting between Microsoft and its competitors.

Source: Microsoft via Ars Technica