Wading in the AntiViral Suite Swamp – Advice Needed

Recently, I’ve been fighting the battle of the virus scanners. Let me go back and explain the history.

For the longest time, I just ran the version of Symantec (10, I believe) that my company provided for home use. But in the last few months it had gotten flakey, not updating virus signatures and having difficulty with liveupdate (which would run) updating the date of the files. I was starting to get fed up, but the company went to a new scanner (Symantec Endpoint Protection), and again provided a copy for home use. Being cheap, I deinstalled one and installed the other.

Endpoint Protection seemed to be OK for a while, but it required central management from the corporate overlords which didn’t work from the home machine. Yesterday, the proactive protection shut down with an error code 9. The Symantec site was less than useful to attempt to understand and/or fix it, and one couldn’t download an updated version of the program because that was a corporate function. That’s too restrictive for me; that puppy was uninstalled.

Next, I tried G-Data Anti-Virus based on the PCWorld Recommendation. The review showed it to be a good program. It installed OK, but seems to have a problem updating signatures for its Engine B, and their claimed 24/7 support has been unresponsive for 12 hours. [ETA: Evidently, their support is slow. I found the answer to the update problem here]. Although its scan found more than Symantec ever did, I’m inclined to uninstall it (it is a trial version). [ETA: I may wait a couple of weeks to test it more, now that I’ve got the signature updates working.]

So where do I go from here. What I want in an Anti-Viral/Anti-Malware program is:

  • Good protection from malware and viruses, both with weekly scans and a continuous monitor.
  • Regular signature updates that work and give me an indication that they worked.
  • Unnoticable overhead for the continuous monitoring, and light system impact during an overall scan.
  • Good pricing, ideally for a 4-seat license (most do 3 seats — do they notice if you do 4)

Looking at the reviews out there, About.com has as its top three Norton Internet Security 2009, Avira AntiVirus Personal Edition, and McAfee VirusScan Plus. The PC Magazine review gives an editors choice to Norton Internet Security 2009 (which has supposedly been rewritten to be less of a pig), Norton 360, ZoneAlarm Extra Security, with Trend Micro and the ZoneAlarm Suite in the 2nd tier. The AntiVirus Software Review gives top ratings to BitDefender and Kapersky (the two engines that are in G-Data). G-Data is downgraded for their lack of support and some comments on speed. Consumer search seems to like eSet, AVG, Norton Internet Security, and Norton Antivirus. In terms of suites, Top Ten Reviews likes BitDefender, ZoneAlarm, and Kapersky, with Norton Internet Security at #9. ConsumerSearch likes Norton Internet Security for the best, and Panda for the budget. PCWorld likes G-Data, Norton Internet Security and BitDefender. The Firewall Guide likes Norton Internet Security, ZoneAlarm, and BitDefender. CNet likes Norton Internet Security, Kapersky, and ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite.

As one can seem from this, there is no clear concensus. I’d likely be inclined to replace G-Data with the Norton Internet Security suite, especially as reviews indicate its performance has improved, except that (a) I’ve had problems with Norton/Symantec in the past, at least with the corporate versions; (b) they appear to include a firewall, and I’m unclear of its interaction with my existing Zonealarm firewall; and (c) they appear to be only 3-PC licenses, and we have 4 PCs. The other top two are BitDefender and the ZoneAlarm Suite. The latter (ZoneAlarm) will likely interact better with my existing firewall (hell, it will likely update it, as it is a Zonealarm firewall, although I don’t know if I have to uninstall the firewall before installing the product). ZoneAlarm has a 3-PC license for $50/year, 5-PC for $110. BitDefender is also 3-PCs for $50/year, and includes a firewall (again, interaction with the existing ZoneAlarm is a concern). BitDefender does have a 5-PC price of $80. As a pricing comparison, Norton Internet Security is $60 ($70 for CD) for the 3-PC annual license, and they don’t give a 5-PC price.

Does anyone have any experiences with Norton Internet Security, BitDefender, or the ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite? Does anyone have recommendations on the licensing for 4 PCs: 3 desktops and one netbook?