Running a small business isn’t cheap. Licensing software for multiple computers can often be a particularly costly aspect of small business. Now, Microsoft is helping a bit with the software burden by changing the licensing terms of Microsoft Security Essentials. Starting yesterday, small businesses can download and install Microsoft Security Essentials on up to ten PCs for free.

Since its debut in September 2009, Microsoft Security Essentials has been available as a free download/install for a single home PC. Security Essentials is an easy file to get from Microsoft that requires no registration or renewals, and it runs fairly quietly in the background of PCs so users can work uninterrupted. For companies with fewer than ten PCs to manage, it’s a practical, no-attention-needed solution for security (for companies with more than ten PCs, Microsoft recommends using Forefront, which unfortunately isn’t free).

This move to help small businesses save money and gain security represents a fairly significant gesture on Microsoft’s part. The small business computers don’t even have to be running Windows 7 to use Security Essentials (great news for those who have dragged their feet on OS upgrades because of the cost involved), but the computers MUST be running genuine Windows.

The Microsoft Partner SMB Community Blog fairly vibrated with praise for Security Essentials AND for this new ten-PC accommodation; you can read the post if you want more specifics about how Security Essentials works. In the Windows Security Blog, Eric Foster wrote, “This new availability will allow small businesses that operate outside of the home to take advantage of Microsoft’s no-cost antimalware service that will help them save time, save money and remain productive while protecting them from viruses, spyware and other malicious threats.”

Foster notes that 30 million users in 74 countries have downloaded Microsoft Security Essentials over the past year. And in even better news, PC World points out the Security Essentials 2.0 is in development and currently in beta – the new version will work better with Internet Explorer to address and foil online security threats.

If you want to download and install Microsoft Security Essentials for your own small business, click here to get started. It’s not a bad way to get security protection for your PCs without having to fork over the cost of licensing software, and in this economy, small businesses can use all the help they can get.

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