LIFE IN HELL WITH SYMANTEC ANTIVIRUS

A brief recap.

  • Norton Antivirus is still the easiest antivirus program to use and keep up to date. Symantec has tightened the screws on licensing and the program is getting more bloated as the years go by, but it’s still a step ahead of the competitors for ease of use.
  • Other Norton consumer products are a complete mess. I’ve already expressed my contempt for Norton Internet Security; here’s a recent review knocking the new version of the program that adds ineffective spyware coverage.
  • Symantec Antivirus is designed for businesses with servers. In the past it has been lean and effective – quirky to roll out but simple and reliable after installation.
  • Things began to fall apart a couple of years ago with Symantec Antivirus 8. On some systems the program couldn’t get its updates of virus definitions for no apparent reason, requiring elaborate and arcane manual workarounds. On others, the program stopped getting updates after a couple of years, again for no reason and with no explanation or workaround from Symantec.
  • Last year Symantec Antivirus 9 introduced a new scheme for controlling licenses. I can’t possibly do it justice with a brief explanation. You have to trust me – it’s unbelievable, convoluted and buggy and annoying and frustrating. Conversations with tech support have just confirmed that the whole license scheme is cocked up. But Symantec now has its mechanism in place to make sure it can extract money every year or so for each and every license.
  • I just installed a copy of Symantec Antivirus 9 from a brand new box last week, and noted that the version was 9.0.0.338. LiveUpdate reported that everything was up to date. A random mention in a magazine column alerted me that something was wrong. After a lot of Googling, I was able to put together the story: 9.0.0.338 has known problems and vulnerabilities; there have been several subsequent releases, and the current version is 9.0.3. But LiveUpdate doesn’t give you access to that release; most IT folks believe that it can only be ordered on CD from tech support if you specifically call and ask for it (and for a while, even that didn’t work unless you had paid extra for “Platinum” support).
  • Another hour of Googling eventually clued me in that Symantec makes some files available through a gateway accessed with a valid serial number. (This was very, very difficult to find out. Why?) Valid serial numbers from four different clients were rejected for no reason before I was admitted to download a copy of Symantec Antivirus 9.0.3. The recommendation out in the community is to completely uninstall the previous version before installing this one. That involves four restarts of the server on my simple setup – interminable and unacceptable.
  • Symantec Antivirus 10 was just released, purportedly adding spyware protection. I installed it on my server and workstations for testing. The server slowed to a crawl. The computers nearly froze. The kids complained that something was wrong. My wife asked why her Internet connection was so slow. I did some more Googling and it didn’t take long to discover that SAV 10 has some major problems.

What to do? What will I tell my clients using Small Business Server? I’m not sure yet. . .