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On one level solution providers that sell end point security software are going to be upset. Check Point Software Technologies has announced an upgrade to its it free ZoneAlarm security software that not only now includes a firewall, but also performs as well as most commercial software offerings.

In tests performed by performed by, this free offering scored better on protection and performance than a number of paid products currently on the market. Specifically, ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall 2013 scored 99.42 percent in the detection of malware when the average score for most popular paid products is 98.81 percent. The latest version of ZoneAlarm also scored 100 percent when it came to blocking attacks from websites and 100 percent detection and removal of active rootkits.

This latest Check Point Software effort is obviously an element of a larger branding campaign for the company, but it also raises some difficult questions for solution provider in the channel and the IT industry as a whole.On one level, solution providers have benefited from selling security software for client systems. At the same time, the absence of quality security software on the client contributes mightily to the security crisis that increasingly paralyzed IT.

In theory, every IT system should be secure. But in the small to medium (SMB) space especially, security compromises are routinely made. To save money many customers have already adopted various forms of free client security software. Given the budget constraints that many of these organizations already face, Bari Abdul, vice president of consumer sales at Check Point Software, makes the case that in the name of better collective security solution providers should encourage customers to deploy the best free security software available.

In addition to freeing up budget dollars for other IT projects, Abdul notes that it’s a lot easier to provide higher margin security services when security software on the client is already installed.

This latest move by Check Point strikes at the heart of the security dilemma confronting IT vendors and their partners. Encouraging companies to buy IT technologies these days without addressing security issues is roughly equivalent to telling people to buy weapons that don’t come with safeties. Client devices of all types are routinely hijacked by hackers to create botnets consisting of thousands of zombie systems that have little to no security software installed. In the name of the greater good it’s incumbent upon vendors and solution providers to encourage customers to have the highest levels of security possible, even if that means using free software that they don’t necessarily profit from.

Of course, the more secure IT becomes the more likely companies are to trust it. Arguably, a security backlash is building in the sense that insecure systems are starting to adversely affect business on the Web. Meanwhile, governments around the globe are getting more proactive about the levels of security that businesses need to have in place in order to operate.

Obviously, solutions providers are going to be conflicted about anything that’s free. But sometimes the benefits of something being free far outweigh the immediate impact on lost revenue, which is why solution providers in the name of prosperity should be encouraging the deployment of as much security software as possible.