8 Questions You Must Ask Before Buying Anti-Virus Software

antivirus pre-purchase questions

Hopefully, as you are reading this post, you already have an effective anti-virus program running in the background.

If not, I sincerely hope you realise how urgently you ought to install some level of security protection, even if it is a free product, such as AVG Free.

If, on the other hand, you are looking to buy an effective anti-virus program then what questions should you ask yourself?

choosing-antivirus

1. WILL THIS ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAM BE EFFECTIVE?

Bit of a no-brainer this one but you need to make sure that any anti-virus solution that you use can deal with the latest threats, such as the Conficker worm.

Whilst all the larger anti-virus vendors were fairly quick off the mark in terms of securing against Conficker, other less well known brands were very late in issuing updates.

Considering how quickly worms and viruses propagate on the internet, delayed updates can be critical to the effectiveness of the anti-virus program.

Whilst virtually all anti-virus protect against viruses, worms and trojans not all offer protection against newer threats, i.e. identity theft, which arise when sensitive data is stolen from online merchant websites and internet banking web pages.

If that extra level of security is important to you then you may have less products to choose from, even from the larger vendors.

One person who did choose a product based upon the effectiveness they perceived it to have was Sam_Hunt who said –

@Security_FAQs I chose ESET’s NOD32 primarily due to their record with Virus Bulletin’s tests http://www.virusbtn.com

2. IS THIS ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAM EASY TO USE?

Not everyone is a computer expert or security professional.

In fact, I know a good few people who struggle to do much more than just switch their computer on!

If that sounds like you then nothing else may matter half as much as having an anti-virus product that is easy to use.

For the less computer-savvy user, the main selling point may be a simple interface or easy-to-understand user guide or manual.

Such simplicity in use should not be underestimated by those who provide security programs – if the average user has trouble installing and configuring any such program then it’s effectiveness becomes negligible.

3. HOW OFTEN WILL UPDATES AND NEW VIRUS DEFINITIONS BE AVAILABLE?

As I mentioned earlier worms and viruses are always, be definition, one step ahead of the solution.

For an anti-virus product to be effective it has to catch up with the latest threats almost immediately.

If the security software you are looking at doesn’t update at least daily then I would recommend passing on it and finding one that does.

4. DOES THE ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAM RUN CONTINUOUSLY?

If you select a product that offers ‘real-time scanning’ then that means that malicious attackers, such as worms and viruses, will be automatically detected as they try to enter your system.

This means you will be afforded protection from multiple sources of potential infection such as downloads from the web as well as email attachments.

If an anti-virus product does not offer continuous scanning then there is a good chance it will detect threats after they have infected your system and, potentially, spread to your network or other devices.

5. WILL THE PRODUCT HOG YOUR SYSTEM’S RESOURCES?

Over the years I have used a variety of products from a number of vendors including McAfee, AVG, Norton and Avast.

For the most part, I have not noticed them running in the background.

However, some less well-known products I’ve used have slowed my system to the point where it is almost unusable, especially when running a full scan of all my drives.

Unless you can schedule such tasks for when you are not using your computer then this will seriously damage your productivity.

Therefore, I would recommend that you check the web to see if people are commenting about your preferred product to see if resource usage is a complaint levied at it.

6. DO YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO BE PAYING FOR AN ANTI-VIRUS SOLUTION?

In this day and age it is actually worth asking whether you need to be paying for an anti-virus product at all.

Whilst products such as AVG Free are limited in comparison to their more expensive brothers they tend to be no less effective at dealing with the core issue of protecting against worms and viruses.

If you are a casual computer user and web surfer then such a product may be the perfect solution.

On the other hand, if you a using your computer in your profession, or are a user of internet banking, then I would suggest a more comprehensive internet security suite may be more appropriate.

(Remember, though, to be on the lookout for anti-virus scams when looking for free or cheap solutions).

7. WHAT LEVEL OF TECHNICAL SUPPORT IS ON OFFER?

The level of technical support on offer fits in with point #2 that I made above – if you are not a computer expert then you may well have need to speak to an advisor when you have problems or difficulties with the product.

Before calling tech support you will want to know –

  • How much will the call cost
  • How quickly will the call be answered
  • Will the technician be able to respond to your query in a manner that you will understand
  • Is support available 24 hours a day

The answers to those questions will have a heavy bearing on the purchase decision for many people, especially the cost of support which could make even the cheapest solution suddenly appear to be very expensive.

8. IS THERE A TRIAL VERSION YOU CAN TRY BEFORE BUYING?

Quality security vendors know that they are offering a good product and so they can afford to give out free trials of their software.

Typically, these are time- or feature-limited in some way in order to encourage the user to upgrade to a full paid version.

For you, however, this is an ideal opportunity to try before you buy and to gain a fair idea of how the product meets your expectations, or not, as the case may be.

HOW WOULD YOU DECIDE WHICH ANTI-VIRUS TO BUY?

Hopefully the eight points I have made above have given you the idea that the value of any given anti-virus product is a function of more than just it’s original purchase price.

So, how would you decide which AV product to buy?

Do you need a wealth of information so that you can make an informed decision or do you go by word of mouth from friends or family.

@Security_FAQs usually i simply continued the subscription that came with the computer, no regard to specific features

Or, perhaps, simplicity itself is the deciding factor, as it was for YatPundit, who gave the above answer when I asked him?

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. You make a very good point there jcanto. I know in my local computer store the advice seems to come from salespeople with far less knowledge of computers than even I have.

    Also, as you suggest, the best defence against computer-related threats is knowledge – following basic security procedures would offer far more protection than any piece of software.

  2. The problem with some (many) of that questions is that many times people in shops will not be able to answer them in an effective way, therefore, normal users who don’t really have a technical background on security are merciless against ‘marketoid’ suggestions. Nothing can substitute awareness and learning to use the tool you want to use (the computer).

  3. Which one do you use Melody?

  4. Hi Steve, not sure if Sam will be around to answer your question but the link he tweeted is quite informative..

  5. 6. DO YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO BE PAYING FOR AN ANTI-VIRUS SOLUTION?

    I always did pay a recurring subscription until I tried a few free alternatives such as Avg. As you say they are not as feature rich but they do the job well enough.

  6. Awesome article Scam, your getting back to your best!

  7. YatPundit is a cool guy – use whatever is already there – its the simple solution that appeals to the average computer guy.

  8. I currently use a free virus software..it seems to be holding up well..hope I wont need to buy anything soon.

  9. hey Sam, never heard of NOD32, why do you rate it so highly?

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