So you made the decision to buy an AntiVirus (AV) to safeguard your system. But stuck with what to look for in the AV?
Here are some of the tips that will help you in selecting the best AV for your computer:
- Load on System
- Frequency of the definitions or updates
- Type of subscription
- Ease of Upgradation
- Technical Support
Load on System
One of the common complaints from the users is that AV is taking lot of system resources. I think the problem could be caused at the startup of the computer where the most of the programs are configured to load and slow down the system. One way to get around this is to disable or delay or the startup of other applications. Remember it is very essential that AV loads at startup and not at a later time because some of the threats tend to load at startup and if they are allowed to load, they could even disable the AV.
Some of the other tips include, increasing the system RAM or Memory. Not only does this speed up the computing, but also allows you to multitask. Here is an easy and simple way to selectively allow programs to start in Windows:
1. Go to Start > Run
2. Type MSCONFIG
3. Click on the Startup tab
4. Uncheck the programs like Adobe, Winamp, MSN /Yahoo/Gtalk Messenger and etc
5. Click OK
Frequency of virus definitions/updates
Well, if you think just installing an Antivirus would protect your system, hang on. You will also need to download the updates or antivirus definitions to keep up with the new threats. In this fast changing world of technology, newer threats in the form or Viruses, Worms and Trojans (Click here to read the difference between Viruses Worm and Trojans) come out each day. While it may be difficult for AV companies to keep the pace with all of them, some AV Vendors use heuristics to at least quarantine some of these. Symantec for example uses a technology called as Bloodhound to isolate the malicious threats for which complete information is not known. The common practice is this space for most AntiVirus vendors is to release the updates on a weekly basis. However, if there is an outbreak, the definitions to cure the same are released instantly to prevent any zero day attacks. Read the product information at the vendor’s site carefully to know the frequency of updates. An AV that does not get definitions on a periodic use may not be of much use.
Suggestion: Configure your AV to automatically download and install the updates as and when new updates are released.
Ease of Upgradation
The standard practice in the AntiVirus (AV) vendor space is that each year a newer version of the product is released. More often than not, you may end up upgrading to the newer version. Upgradation basically means installing a newer version over the existing version. So ensure that the AV you buy has the good track record of clean upgradation.
Some AV applications are known to have issues while upgrading from an older version to newer version. If not done correctly, they may leave traces in the registry and can cause major issues while installing. So watch out while you decide to Upgrade or Renew for Updates.
Type of Subscription
AV products generally have usage license for a period of one year. That is you pay and use for one year and after which you will have to renew it in order to receive the AV Updates / Virus definitions. Know the difference between Upgrade and Update.
An update is a periodic Antivirus definition or signature release from the vendor. This can be periodic, for example Symantec releases its Virus definition every Wednesday. Updates include Virus definitions, program improvements, patches etc.
An upgrade is the iteration in the version of the product. For example, you are using Norton Antivirus (NAV) 2008 and it is reaching its one year period and Symantec has now released NAV 2008. You will be presented an option to upgrade to the newer version or continue using the older version by renewing the subscription fees, in which case you will continue to use NAV 2009.
An upgrade normally costs little more than renewal and its better to go for an upgrade because there will bound to be improvements in the newer version.
Believe me, one factor that is going to have a major impact on your peace of mind is the Technical Support from your vendor on their product. I have seen people tear their hairs on the issues that can arise out of the blue.
Most of the problems arise while installing the product. Make sure you read the minimum hardware requirements, supported OS, incompatibility with other products before you decide to zero in on any product. Such information is published in the vendor website.
NOTE: You should Install and Use only One AntiVirus at a time. Having multiple AV to protect your system can cause all of them to malfunction and allow a threat to affect your system!
Technical support can be free or charged. Normally, free technical support is restricted to Knowledge Base Articles and Email or Chat support. KB articles are a good source of information for known issues and solutions for them. Some AV vendors even run support forum, where the solution comes from people like you and me.
Paid support comes in the form of Telephone calls. Here also you may have to go through the maze of IVRs to actually get to talk to the agent. By the time you get to talk to the agent you may be zapped, this does not end here….but to actually get the solution to your problem, you will have to shell out some money which may not be worthwhile. The charge for the paid support is almost equal to the half of the product price! (remember online search engines Google, Yahoo and MSN search are your friends!)
Last but not the least, this write-up would be incomplete without the mention of Open Source vs Commercially available AV products. Currently, there are not many Open Source products in this space except www.Clamwin.com. It’s worth a try and better than using many free version of commercial AV. I had used it briefly on a Virtual Machine running Windows XP and it was performing well. For any queries, you can buzz me at Twitter.