Review: Three Security Suites For The Less-Than-Technical
If your users aren't comfortable with computers, you want a security suite that will keep them safe without scaring them. Here's how McAfee's, Norton's, and Trend Micro's new applications stack up.
If you're a technical support person whose clients include individuals and/or small businesses -- or if you're simply the official support resource for family, friends, and neighbors -- then you'll know that one of the most vital (and neglected) applications is a solid security suite. More often than not, those whose technical know-how is limited to how to cut and paste will neglect to update their security software, decide that a simple virus checker is enough, or forget to put one on their system altogether.
It's not as though there aren't applications out there for them. Recently, three of the most well-known security software suites -- McAfee, Norton, and Trend Micro -- have been upgraded. Each of these packages offers a variety of common features such as firewall, virus protection, and automatic updates to keep virus definitions current; some provide spam protection or other tools such as cache cleaners.
To help choose which application is best for nontechnical users, I looked at the basics that these suites offer, with an eye toward ease of installation and use, and how complicated they are to understand. I also looked at the type of alarms and error messages they use -- when a user gets a message asking if an IP address is illegitimate, or claiming that the PC is in deep trouble if a certain feature isn't turned on, it's the support person who is going to have to figure things out.
For this purpose, I used a reasonable -- but not high-end -- system that is typical of many users: a Dell Dimension 4600 with a 3.06-GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512 Mbytes RAM.
An interesting note: One of the ways that companies are beginning to compete is with the three-PC license, where purchasing one package enables you to protect up to three computers -- which, considering that many households have at least two or three PCs, is a great marketing tool. In this case, both Trend Micro and Norton included a three-machine license with their basic product; McAfee asks for an additional $20 for its three-PC product.
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