Most antivirus programs do a great job protecting computers from the perils lurking in cyberspace. When virus-fighting software doesn’t work, it is usually because the end-user has chosen the wrong version of the software, or that it hasn’t been configured correctly.
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Articles that compare antivirus software programs usually miss the mark. This recent article from PCWorld, “Antivirus 2011: Digital Defenders,” is a perfect example. It offers interesting tidbits on the differences between the major vendors but doesn’t hit on the real problem.
Antivirus vendors offer so many versions of their products that you’d have to be a technology expert to distinguish which version works best for you!
Here's a quick look at the different versions of antivirus software available and where they can cause a breach in protection:
Trial versions are free and usually come installed on retail computers. They are typically limited to 90 days from the time they are activated. When the trial runs out, however, many end users simply ignore the “time’s up” notice or click it off. At that point, the computer is no longer protected. Complicating matters, trial versions typically ask you for your credit card information to extend the trial period. But fake anti-virus programs have been scamming people for many months. My firm sees problems related to this scam and expiring trials coming up frequently.
Everyone likes things that are free, and free antivirus software is a step up from the trial version because it doesn’t expire, at least not as soon. Free anti-virus programs, however, invariably lack either important protections, tech support or features such as firewalls. There is a reason it’s free! Your practice needs a higher level of protection than you can obtain for nothing.
For this version, you typically pay an annual fee to the vendor and receive full protection and functionality. So it’s the first level that will provide you with more complete protection. However, it has to be configured separately on each computer in your business, which is time-consuming and often not straightforward because you have different computers with different versions of an operating system. More importantly, once you install a retail antivirus app and configure it on each computer, further configuration is a dynamic process – the software will continue to issue alerts and ask configuration questions, such as when to update and what type of files to protect. Usually one employee configures the antivirus app one way and another does it a totally different way. Pretty soon, each workstation has a different antivirus configuration. It's a mess to manage.
The more expensive corporate version solves the messy management problem by allowing you to control the configuration of all your workstations from one central server, taking control out of the hands of front-line employees and placing it with the IT department. If you need to make a configuration change, it’s easy to do and can be done on all protected computers almost instantly. One thing to consider, however: Who’s watching over the corporate server and monitoring the interactive process? Is your IT staff large enough to handle that on top of all their other duties? Corporate antivirus is a good choice for large corporations with fully manned IT staffs, but can be problematic for smaller firms that cannot afford a dedicated resource to watch over your virus protection server.
Cloud-managed antivirus software has all of the features of corporate antivirus software without tying up server resources or adding the burden of having to watch over the server. Cloud-managed antivirus software also tends to be less expensive to implement as you do not have the costs associated with the installation, configuration and maintenance of a corporate server. While there may be some negatives to this choice, it's hard for me to come up with any. Yet my gess is few advisory firms are using managed antivirus services.
Let me hear from you. Are you using cloud-managed antivirus services? If so, which one? Are you happy with one of the other options I've discussed above? Please let me know.