December 17, 2010
Outstanding Virus Protection Software
This is an easy-to-use virus protector that provides an outstanding service. AVG has kept both my laptop and my desktop computers free of any harmful viruses since the moment I installed it on each, and I could not be more satisfied with the results thus far. It's clean, user-friendly, and most importantly, effective.
Why Do You Need Antivirus software?
Everyday, more and more viruses are spread through the Internet, social networks, emails, LANs. You name it. Whenever two computers can communicate with and pass data to each other, the opportunity for infection is present. Viruses have evolved from mere pranks and ego-driven projects aimed at establishing programming “reputation” to highly malicious, insidious, and commercially-driven ventures. Every year, global business loses billions of dollars in lost productivity, corrupted programs, lost data, and opportunity costs. The stakes have never been higher. If you think your computer usage might insulate you from infection, think again! Even if you just use your PC to access Facebook, check email, or run searches on Google, all it takes is one bad click, and your PC will be infected. Even if you've trained yourself to ignore email attachments or emails that contain unfamiliar links, if you use social networks' communication systems and instant messaging, you can still be infected.
If you've decided to take action to protect yourself against infection, keep in mind that not all antivirus programs are the same. The old thinking of “one size fits all” could be fatal to your home or office network and could cost you quite a bit of money and lost time down the road. Like with most other software packages, there is no ONE solution—each option must be weighed based on considerations that vary from situation to situation. Your situation may be different from a data center's situation. Their situation may be different from a university's. Regardless, asking the right foundational questions should lead to an antivirus solution that fits your particular needs. Ask the following questions when considering the right antivirus application for your situation.
How extensive is its virus database (signature)?
This is the core of any antivirus program since no antivirus program can fight viruses it isn't aware of. The more viruses listed in its dabase/virus library, the better. However, volume isn't enough. The virus program must also be aware of the many differing classes and subclasses of viruses out there. Viruses come in classes and subclasses. Any serious antivirus program should address as many classes and subclasses of viruses and not just focus on the differing versions of a particular virus. This is extremely important because virus coders might switch from one class to another if variations of the old class have been effectively predicted and neutralized by antivirus programs. Having a wide diversity of virus classes offers users some measure of insurance against future virus evolution.
How often does the antivirus update?
Having a large virus library that spans many differing classes and subclasses is not enough. A huge virus library of all possible virus versions is worthless if it isn't updated. Updates make sure your virus library has the latest information on viruses to watch out for during scans. The more updates the better. Viruses evolve rapidly. Your antivirus program should do the same by updating as frequently as possible.
How sensitive is the antivirus software to program changes?
Some antivirus programs use a profile system when scanning for, detecting, and deleting viruses. In this system, if a suspected virus doesn't “fit the profile” the software is looking for, it is passed over as harmless. Other antivirus programs are more aggressive. Not only do they look for profiles, they also look for application behavior patterns and profiles that “come close” to suspicious profiles. These software packages then send the operator a warning regarding suspicious program behavior. Similarly, other non-profile driven system use a “heuristic” system to look for suspicious behavior and programs.
Make sure you are aware of which system your antivirus program uses and choose based on your comfort level. The great thing with profile-based systems is there is less of a chance of a “false positive” due to over sensitivity. The downside is that profile-based systems might miss very recent versions of a virus. Some versions can be so new that they aren't included in the antivirus program's update. While very sensitive software has a higher chance of detecting new virus versions, the high chance of false positives might make the software's notices very annoying. Also, some completely innocent operations done by applications you installed might be flagged as “suspicious” if they interact with other programs you have on your computer or if your OS and the application have some slight compatibility issues. Keep in mind the issue of effectiveness versus convenience in these scenarios.
Does it offer solutions to the issue of false positives?
As mentioned above, false positives can get quite annoying and could cost a firm quite a bit of money due to lost productivity and unnecessary technical assistance. Some programs have a self-correcting system for detecting false positives Others just report what they detect without any sort of filtering.
What customer support options does the antivirus software offer?
Differing software packages offer widely differing customer support options. Some offer only email and web-based “knowledge base" support. Others offer live chat support. While others offer phone support. Make sure to pick the software package that offers the greatest number of options. You should also consider if the options are free. While most “self-serve” forum-based or knoweldge base support options are free, some phone support options require payment. Make sure to consider the costs of support.
How reliable is the antivirus software package's customer support?
Not all support options are the same. Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Make sure you keep this in mind when evaluating a software package's customer support capabilities. While phone support is instantaneous, it isn't free. While knowledge base / FAQ support is very quick, sometimes the answer you are looking for isn't posted online. Although support forums are quick and easy to access and your question probably has been asked on the forum before, there's no guarantee that the question has been answered satisfactorily. Although chat support is quick and usually free, the long queues might be a hassle you wouldn't want to deal with. Keep each support option's strengths and limitations in mind.
How many users does the antivirus software program have?
As you probably learned in childhood, just because a friend jumps off a cliff it doesn't mean you have to jump off too. The same principle applies to software purchases. Conformity is not a substitute for intelligent choice. With that said, a hugely popular antivirus program does have a competitive advantage in having a massive installed base—a large volume of “testers” and a globally distributed feedback system. If the antivirus program you are considering has a very small base, the developer might not be getting the volume of feedback it needs to tweak the program to deal with a wide variety of threats and conditions. Large installation bases help developers to “battle test” their applications so it meets certain performance benchmarks and quality expectations.
Windows, Mac OS X or Linux virus threats?
It's a sad reality but due to the Windows OS' domination of the OS market, most viruses target this operating system. Regardless, viruses do exist for the Mac OS and the differing flavors of Linux, most commonly Ubuntu. Just because viruses are relatively rare for Mac or Linux-based systems, it doesn't mean you should totally ignore the possibility of threats. While the chances are low, don't be part of the small percentage that suffers the hassle and headache of virus infection on these systems. If you are using a Mac or Ubuntu, make sure you install a commercial-grade Mac antivirus software or linux since the chances are high that whatever default antivirus packages ship with MAC or Ubuntu might be targeted.
The bottom line of antivirus software
While there is no one perfect antivirus solution that will address all situations and users, there is a core set of questions users can use to find antivirus software packages that are right for them. Carefully step through the considerations above and weigh the relative strength of the software based on these criteria. Always keep in mind the costs involved in terms of actual cash layout, lost time, training, and lost productivity.