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  • Scott Mainellis

What is the best anti-virus strategy?

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

As hackers and other cybercriminals become ever more sophisticated, it's more important than ever for small businesses to fend off attacks with the right cybersecurity approach.

Keep scary computer viruses (shown as bright blue monster face) and hackers at bay with an anti-virus strategy.

Hearing about scary big-corporate data breaches has become part of life. Financial institutions, large companies, entertainment giants, and even hospital systems continue to be targeted. And we are all aware of the incessant identity theft attempts on us regular folks who use e-mail and the Internet for work, education, and fun.

Small businesses are increasingly targeted

Perhaps not as much attention is given to protecting small businesses. As hackers grow increasingly more sophisticated and aggressive, and workers rely on the Internet more and more to do their jobs, small businesses should be more concerned than ever about protecting their data from viruses and other external threats.

So, what is the best anti-virus software to use as part of your cybersecurity strategy? The short answer is that all the major brands are very good (for example, Norton, McAfee, and Windows Defender), but they can all fail you from time to time. If you read reviews from computer magazines and Internet resources, you’ll see there is never one package that completely blows away the competition; they all do pretty well. And it is very rare that one brand will win the competition multiple years in a row.

There is no clear winner in anti-virus software packages

Ideally, it would seem that running several anti-virus programs simultaneously, from different vendors, would keep you the safest. However, in practice, this approach doesn’t work. Here’s why: First, running more than one anti-virus program simultaneously severely impacts the speed of the computer. Anti-virus programs are big memory and CPU resource hogs. Doubling or tripling that workload has a significant impact on processing speed, and thus, performance.

Running more than one anti-virus program at the same time severely impacts the speed of the computer.

Second, anti-virus programs issued from different vendors tend to conflict with each other, causing problems. What kinds of problems? For one, these competing programs can actually view each other as potential viruses and try to quarantine each other. They can also see files already quarantined by one program as a continuing threat and give false notifications. And no one wants false notifications interrupting their work day (with panicked calls to the Help Desk) and causing unnecessary alarm and concern. Trying to fight a virus that’s already been taken care of is a big time waster.

Anti-virus programs from different vendors tend to conflict with each other, causing problems.

Follow this cybersecurity protocol

The best solution to these kinds of problems is to run a single anti-virus program on every computer and have a UTM (unified threat management) firewall appliance sitting between your computer network and your Internet provider’s equipment.

A UTM firewall is a small hardware device that has a subscription-based anti-virus engine running inside it. The firewall analyzes all the Internet traffic flowing to and from your computer network. This analysis provides a second opinion, from a different vendor, leading to a wider net of protection from potential viruses, intrusions, or other malware.

Solution: Run a single anti-virus program on every computer and install a UTM firewall appliance.

In addition to acting as backup protection for each computer’s virus-protection software, UTM firewall appliances can enable a highly useful VPN (virtual private network). A VPN is a secure way to provide off-site access to your company’s computer network. The ability to access internal resources from an off-site computer or mobile devices such as your smart phone and tablet is increasingly important for small businesses.

Basic UTM firewall appliances can cost $500-$1,000, with annual subscription renewals costing $200-$400 per year. Again, they protect your entire computer network, whether that is just one computer or hundreds.

Combining the use of a UTM firewall appliance with a single reliable anti-virus program installed on each machine provides a comprehensive way to keep viruses and hackers out. And don’t forget to keep up with the regular updates to these products.

Finally, be sure to have an information technology professional evaluate the performance of these products every year to ensure you have the best cybersecurity solution in place.


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