SECURITY PROGRAMS – HOME/SMALL BUSINESS

In 2009, almost every security suite has been slimmed down and simplified. The vendors finally responded to years of criticism and have made their programs more stable, light on system resources, easier to understand, and less intrusive.

Although you can easily find comparisons showing that one or another antivirus and spyware program is more effective than another, the reality is that all of them are more or less equally effective – and you must use common sense and not click OK on everything, regardless of what security software is running.

FREE PRODUCTS

AVG still has a free bare-bones antivirus/spyware program, as does Avast. Either will protect you at home if you are careful to also install Windows updates and do backups.

SECURITY SUITES

trendmicrobox The products from all the vendors are reportedly much improved. Each will have its own quirks and glitches but I don’t have any reason to steer you toward one in particular.

Here’s a thorough comparison of the leading suites from PC Magazine. I have very little hands-on experience but I can add a couple of extra impressions gleaned from surfing around and reading reviews and feedback.

Symantec claims that Norton Internet Security 2009 is completely rewritten, and the reviews agree that it has a very low impact on computer performance, as well as being less intrusive than earlier versions and easy to manage. That might be true. But Symantec has worked hard for more than ten years on its poor reputation and I think it deserves our skepticism and scorn for at least a while longer. You really have no idea how bad Symantec products have been! I want a lot more information before I tell you to trust a Norton product.

If you consider Norton, make sure you get Norton Internet Security 2009 and not the Norton 360 program, which is stinky.

McAfee continues to struggle and seems to be at the bottom of the barrel in 2009. There’s still a lot of negative feedback on the McAfee lineup.

If you want me to just pick one for you, then go buy Trend Micro Internet Security 2009. It appears to be a safe choice – stable, easy to install, easy to manage, effective, well supported.

You won’t go wrong choosing any of the others, though – Kaspersky Internet Security 2009, Panda Internet Security 2009, BitDefender Internet Security 2009, or the new (and reportedly impressive) Vipre Antivirus & Antispyware from Sunbelt Software, among others.

SHOPPING TIPS

Licenses will be enforced. If you buy a product that’s licensed for one computer, you will only install it on one computer! Watch the licensing terms and buy what you need. Many of the suites permit installation on three home computers but don’t assume that. Example Norton Antivirus 2009 has two different versions at different prices – one for a single computer, another box for three computers.

Each vendor has several different versions of their security suites. Trend Micro, for example, offers a basic product, “Antivirus & Antispyware 2009,” in addition to Trend Micro Internet Security and Trend Micro Internet Security Pro. Most of them treat the cheapest product as a bit of a stepchild and either attempt to divert attention from the low end product or actually leave out meaningful components – root kit detection, for example. The features added on the high end products, on the other hand, are often not very compelling. If you don’t want to study the details, then get the one in the middle.

If you’re not technically skilled, buy the program in a box instead of downloading it. You don’t want to have to call me because you can’t find the file you downloaded.

Uninstall any existing security program before installing a new one. This is crucially important. You never want to have two antivirus programs running simultaneously.

Become familiar with the icon in the notification area by the clock. You have to know when your program needs attention. Do not allow problems to go unresolved – keep your subscription current and do whatever is necessary to stay protected.

If you’re running Windows Live OneCare, keep it current. It’s not broken and you don’t have to replace it. It will be supported until December 2010. Personally, though, I think you should consider switching to a current product when your OneCare subscription expires.

Don’t use a computer without current antivirus and spyware protection.

I’ll have more information soon for businesses running Microsoft Small Business Server.