Norton and McAfee are two of the most popular names in anti-virus software, especially among small businesses. While it's a good idea to go with a leading company when it comes something as important has antivirus protection, it's not always an economical choice. In this case, that price is about $53 for Norton or $59 for McAfee. If you have only one PC, that's not so bad, but when it comes to protecting multiple systems, the cost can rise quickly.
In corporate circles, the name Trend Micro stands for high quality and reliability in its server-level applications. During the last few years, however, it has made strides into the desktop market with the award-winning PC-cillin Internet Security Suite. Trend Micro has just released a new version, PC-cillin Internet Security Suite 2006, and it's a well-priced package seriously worth considering.
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A complete security solution, it's designed to be easy for novices to use, while providing power users with in-depth controls. The suite includes an antivirus scanner, anti-spyware and anti-spam protection, as well as a personal firewall. In addition, PC-cillin contains many unique features including:
Private Data Protection Lets you specify what data you'd like to protect (such as Social Security number and credit cards) and to block each private data item from transmission via instant message, e-mail or a Web form, plus optional exemption of specific sites (allowing your bank number only at the bank's site, for example).
Web Content Filtering Manages URL filtering for your browser, restricting access to inappropriate sites. The content filter blocks spyware, adware and phishing sites by default; plus you can configure it to include about 20 other categories.
Vulnerability Assessment This internal assessment tool notifies you of and lets you easily address potential security concerns in your operating systems and Web browser. One-click access to Microsoft's Windows Update and Office Update Web sites automatically identify, download and install all of the patches you need to secure your system.
Wi-Fi Intrusion Detection Immediately notifies you if an unauthorized person attempts to gain access to your wireless network. Once the software detects an intruder, you can deny access with just the click of a button or stop all Internet traffic. This prevents any personal information from leaving your system and gives you time to investigate the breach.
Another feature, typically not found in this class of product is centralized management of all the PCs running PC-cillin. This lets one person configure, update and control security on every PC in the workgroup.
Pricing comes in less than either Norton or McAfee. For example Buy.com sells it for $41.99. If you look around the Web, you might even be able to do a bit better. Many sites offer write-in rebates, which lower the final price considerably, but rebates can be notoriously hard to collect, so don't count on them in your anti-virus budget.
Administering the Cure
Installing PC-cillin on our test system couldn't have been smoother. After inserting the disc, it prompted us for typical information (installation location, user agreement, what features we wanted to install, etc.) and went about its business. A few minutes later, it updated its definitions and ran a scan on our system, which took almost two hours we have a lot of data on that PC. It didn't crash once, and it seemed to use fewer system resources than competing products.
PC-cillin's controls have been integrated into a centralized control panel. The main screen is made up of red-bordered window with three quick-action buttons that give you access to Scan for Viruses, Update Components or Scan for Spyware. You can access more detailed configuration and scanning options by navigating a row of six vertical buttons, located on the left side of the main console.
The quick-action buttons gives you the status of the Internet Security and Anti-Virus products, and access to the Event Logs. Icons (green check for okay, red exclamation point for problems) let you know the status of each component. Surprisingly, the spyware feature is not represented on the summary screen. For the most part, using PC-cillin is simple and direct.
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The software scans incoming (POP3) and outgoing (SMTP) e-mail and attachments, and you can optionally configure it to scan Web-based e-mail (such as Hotmail and Yahoo Mail) for viruses. It scans for viruses whenever you access a file, and it automatically schedules monthly and weekly scans. PC-cillin also employs a spam filter and adds the prefix "spam:" or "phishing:" to the subject of suspect messages. A separately installed toolbar integrates with Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express.
The Spyware Checker runs quickly and does a fairly good job of finding common spyware programs. However, as anyone who has ever tried to remove spyware knows, none of the programs are perfect so having a back-up program installed, like Ad-aware or Spybot is a good idea.
One last thing, unlike the Symantec antivirus software, PC-cillin completely integrates into the Windows Security Center that comes with XP SP2.
We're impressed with PC-cillin, but that's not to say it doesn't have a few shortcomings. While the basic interface is simple to use and easy to navigate, when you start digging into some of its more advanced configuration options it begins to feel a bit busy and repetitive. People new to anti-virus software may feel a little intimidated and confused when working with some of these more detailed options.
Also, its real-time scanner warns of malware activity using an oversized window that interferes with other activities. A persistent malware program can trigger this window several times per second, which gets to be really annoying and we found no way to turn it off without disabling real-time protection.
Lastly, the firewall pre-configures access rules for a handful of common programs, but still quizzes you about relatively common services like svchost.exe (Generic Host Process for Win32 Services). Clicking Allow or Deny is permanent; and you can't choose "this time only." So if you're unsure of a program's legitimacy and decide to block it, it can't be easily corrected. The only way to do it would be to the find the program in the full list of firewall exceptions and clear it.
While PC-cillin is by no means a perfect package, it does an admirable job of securing your PC and offers a vast array of features and utilities not found anywhere else in this price range.
- Very feature rich for the price
- Not resource intensive
- Confusing and repetitive configuration menus
- Notifications can become tiresome
- You can either Allow or Deny a service from running; it doesn't give you a "Block this time only" option if your unsure about a particular service
Ronald Pacchiano is a contributing writer for both SmallBusinessComputing.com and PracticallyNetworked.com.
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