360 Degrees of PC Protection

Implying all-around, full-circle protection, Symantec’s Norton 360 combines comprehensive PC protection, backup services and PC optimization capabilities. The product is designed for people who use the Internet for activities ranging from online banking to e-mail and instant messaging while continually accumulating digital files such as photos, music, videos and more. Symantec launched the public beta of Norton 360 in late November.

Norton 360 protects against viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, hackers, phishing scams and crimeware; provides data protection through automated back-ups and an online storage service; and fine-tunes your PC’s performance. While many of the features have been available before in Symantec’s other products, Norton 360 combines features that were traditionally sold separately and adds online data storage to the mix.

The product supports up to three PCs, recognizing that many people now own more than one computer. Licensed as a subscription service, Norton 360 provides signature and product updates for the term of the subscription. At press time, Symantec said that Norton 360 would be offered in one-year terms.

Security features in Norton 360 are built on Symantec’s powerful anti-virus engine and capably remove viruses from POP3 -compatible e-mail and instant messages and block Internet worms from infiltrating your network. As with any reputable anti-virus program, an auto-protect feature continuously monitors files as they are opened to prevent viruses or malicious code from infecting PCs. Norton 360 also offers spyware protection as well as advanced rootkit detection and removal.

Transaction security features are designed to thwart fraudulent or malicious activities as you shop, bank or conduct billing online. Also, phishing protection relies on Web site authentication to identify fraudulent e-commerce sites that are trying to collect personal information. Norton Confidential offers similar Website authentication and protection from phishing schemes, but it comes with additional features such as password security and password blocking that aren’t currently available in Norton 360.

Backup: On-site or Online
With more personal data being stored on home PCs, from confidential financial files to irreplaceable family digital photos and video, good backup capabilities are a timely addition to the security package. In addition to backing up data to a CD, DVD or external drive, as any backup program can do, Norton 360 also offers an option to back up files to a secure online service — the only Symantec product to offer this capability.

Norton 360 also presents a quick and straightforward one-time setup that asks you to first identify the folders and files that you want backed up and then define how often to update them. Here, the intuitive interface makes it particularly easy to see and select key folders and files. After the initial setup, Norton 360 efficiently performs the backups behind the scenes.

An impressive feature, Norton 360’s online backup automatically detects new content and incrementally stores it when the PC is idle or at designated, scheduled times. Symantec ensures the security of online backups by relying on 128-bit AES encryption; the program also supports user authentication tokens and per-session keys. Stored data is encrypted with 256-bit AES encryption.

At press time, Symantec said that Norton 360 would come with 2GB of free storage space. Unfortunately, this is a paltry amount that probably doesn’t come close to meeting your backup needs particularly if you’re storing digital photos, music or video.

As you might expect, the company is planning to offer additional backup storage space for a price. At press time, Symantec had no pricing estimates for this upcoming service.

Norton 360 also removes unwanted Internet clutter such as cookies, Internet caches and temporary files that can slow performance. The app is also designed to reduce the risk of system crashes. Missing, however, are system recovery features such as those found in Norton Ghost and Norton Save and Restore for resurrecting a downed PC. On its Web site, Symantec says that it may add such capabilities in future versions. In theory, these would be added without any additional charges as part of the yearly subscription.

Norton 360 in Use

At a glance, Norton 360 sounds a lot like Symantec’s Norton Internet Security application. While both offer similar security features, Internet Security lacks the backup and PC optimization features. According to Symantec, while Norton products will co-exist whenever possible, Norton 360 will detect and uninstall certain Norton products that perform similar functions.

The beta version is straight-forward and easy to install, and the interface is simple and intuitive with areas for “PC Security,” “Transaction Security,” “Backup and Restore,” and “PC Tuneup.” The dashboard also indicates protection levels with easy-to-follow colors: green, yellow and red. Green indicates optimum protection, while red is a warning. For example, if you haven’t configured your backup schedule, the related circle displays “red” until you do so.

Compared with “Norton Internet Security,” Norton 360 handles security intrusions automatically, which can reduce annoying interruptions. While there are still security interruptions — it’s always better to be safe than sorry — this is a welcome objective.

Safe Computing
Although it’s still in beta, Norton 360 already offers a well-rounded security product. You’ll obtain more in-depth security features by purchasing and combining Symantec’s standalone products, but Norton 360, as the name implies, offers solid all-around protection. And it’s the only product in Symantec’s stable that comes with online backup features.

At press time, Symantec said that Norton 360 will be priced at $79.99, which sounds on the high side when you consider that Microsoft’s Windows Live OneCare can be purchased retail for as low as $19 and McAfee sells its “Internet Security Suite” (which also has integrated backup capabilities but no online backup services) for $49.99. Still, if you want online backup capabilities with your PC protection and optimization, Norton 360 is the only game in town for now.

The final version of Norton 360 is scheduled to be available in March 2007. Beta testers must have Windows XP and an Internet connection, and they must uninstall other security solutions from other publishers before installation. If you sign up as a beta tester before January 15th, you will receive a $30 coupon towards purchasing the full version on it’s officially released.

Norton 360 requires a 300MHz or higher processor, 256MB of RAM, 300MB of free hard disk space, Windows XP Home/XP Pro/XP Media 2005 or Windows Vista Home Basic/Home Premium/Business/Ultimate Build 6000 and later, and Microsoft Internet Explorer v6.0 or higher. Symantec cautions that the beta release of Norton 360 is not compatible with Vista RC1/RC2.

Adapted from winplanet.com.

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