A Rough Guide to Choosing Antivirus Software

which antivirus

If you’re a business working with any kind of private information - be it of your customers or your employees - then it’s essential that you have antivirus software installed on your business network. Digital crime is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the very nature of the crime means that antivirus providers have to be reactive. Because of this, often the most important feature of antivirus software is that it updates regularly, ideally in real time.

There are plenty of antivirus options available to businesses, and it can be frustrating sorting through the pros and cons of each, so here’s a quick breakdown of some of our favourite antivirus software to make your decision easier.

What’s your budget?

The first decision that you have to make is whether you’re going to be able to pay for your antivirus or whether to go with a free package. Just because a product is free doesn’t mean it’s not secure - many of the free antivirus offers the same defence as paid alternatives - but it often means they only offer you defence. Paid options will often include other features such as password protection and file clean-up. So if you’re a small business or want to save money, quite often free antivirus may be enough for you. If you’re handling very sensitive information though, or have the money to splash out on more features, it’s worth considering the paid options as well.

Free Antivirus

AVG – Whilst AVG may appear a little complicated at the outset, it is actually very simple to use. The free package also comes bundled with a solid range of features. As well as the antivirus engine it offers an email scanner, identity theft protection and a ‘Suft-Shield’ that will keep you safe whilst browsing. Independent reviews are mixed, but never negative. Independent tester, AV-Comparatives rates it as an average package, whilst AV-test has suggested it’s better than some priced options. It’s up to you to decide which side you come down on, but the free version means you can do so without making a financial investment off the bat.

Bitdefender – A darling of the independent testing labs, Bitdefender offers one of the best antivirus engines around. The program itself downloads and installs very quickly (around a minute on a decent connection) and offers the user a very simple interface that provides automatic and on-demand scanning, anti-phishing protection, and the all-important real-time antivirus protection. However, there are very few manual controls available through Bitdefender, so if you think that your options may require some tinkering, this may not be for you.

Avast – Simple to install, with a simple interface and a minimal impact on system performance. Combined, these features have come together to make Avast’s free antivirus one of the most popular tools on the web. Avast also comes with some decent extras as well; A browser clean-up tool helps you remove any annoying add-ons and a software updater tells you if you miss any updates for your essential programs. A recent update from Avast has also seen the software become multilingual, supporting over ten languages, as well as offering users who want it more control.

FortiNet FortiClient – FortiNet are more widely known for their work in the corporate world, producing network security appliances, but they do also offer a free software option that, whilst it hasn’t done as well in some tests as the other antivirus on this list, it does run nicely alongside them, so can offer you a cheap second line of defence that isn’t going to mess with your primary antivirus.

Of these four, all but FortiNet have paid upgrades available for those who like the software but want more functionality. These come in at relatively similar pricing, with AVG at 29.99 (1 PC a year) Bitdefender at 24.95 (1 PC a year) and 54.95 (3 PC’s for 2 years) and Avast at 29.99 (1 PC a year) and 59.99 (3 PC’s for two years).

Paid Antivirus

Norton (39.99 – 1 year, 3 PC’s/64.99 – 2 years, 3 PC’s) – Norton’s main claim to fame is that it’s better than most software at preventing an initial infection. It also comes with a password manager, which can be very useful if you manage multiple accounts or use passwords that change regularly in your business. It also offers performance monitoring, so it’s easy to see what programs are hogging your resources. It’s a tempting prospect, but there is a caveat. Due to a dispute about the way its effectiveness is measured, Norton is no longer submitted for AV-Comparatives testing. As a result it’s harder to compare its effectiveness with other pieces of software effectively.

BullGuard (24.95 – 1 year, 1 PC/39.95 – 2 years, 1 PC) – The real highlight of Bullgard is its antivirus engine. The program has a minimal impact on your systems performance, and is rated as one of AV-Comparative’s top products from 2013. However, there are some issues: It lacks the configurability of some of its competitors, and also an interface cluttered with features which you can pay more to install (something which you shouldn’t have to experience with a paid-for service.). It’s also more costly than competitors if you wish to buy it for more than one computer (and more of a hassle, as you’ll have to buy two licences rather than one.)

Avira (25.99 – 1 Year, 1 user/38.99 – 2 years, 1 user/51.99 -3 years, 1 user) – The primary attraction of the Avira software is that it’s licenced by user rather than device. As a result, you can spread it over a lot more devices and save money. This is a particularly good investment if you’re looking to implement a bring-your-own-device policy within your business. It’s not the most attractive piece of software, and can be a little difficult to navigate at first. But once you know where everything is, it’s simple enough to use.

Avira does offer a free version as well, but the addition of cloud technology and email scanning to the paid version makes it much more attractive. The software itself is very potent, receiving an ‘Advanced+’ rating from AV-Comparatives and a good overall score from AV-Test.

Kaspersky (29.99 – 1 year, 1 PC/69.99 – 2 years, 3 PC’s) – A very configurable antivirus software, Kaspersky allows you to set up schedules for both quick and full computer scans. These scans are configured so that they will take a back seat if you’re running other programs, ensuring that the scans are never invasive or annoying. There’s also a plethora of extras; vulnerability scan, PC cleaning, rescue disks and browsing protection are just a few of the features available to the user. Kaspersky also won AV-Comparatives “Product of the Year” in 2013, so the 2014 version has an excellent pedigree

First Aid

Emisoft Emergency Kit – Whilst antivirus software will do everything it can to protect your computer from harm, there is no such thing as a 100% detection rate, especially when it comes to user intervention. For those situations when your antivirus doesn’t cut it, you should always have a second tool, like the Emisoft Emergency Kit, at hand. The program works to clean your computer of any compromising malware or viruses, and actually achieved a 100% detection rate in a recent test by AV-Comparatives.

Your decision

Any of these pieces of software will defend your network from a substantial amount of threats, it’s up to you to decide which features most benefit you and your business. However, as a caveat, do remember that whilst antivirus software is a necessary and important part of your business, often the best antivirus is common sense. If you educate yourself and your employees about safe browsing, you are much less likely to encounter threats on the internet, and your business will benefit hugely from added safety as a result.