Security

Review: Norton AntiVirus 2009

Following a massive code overhaul with the 2007 version, Norton AntiVirus software is again winning critical acclaim, and for good reason: the software's detection rates and resource usage are very much improved. Erik Eckel reviews Norton AntiVirus 2009.

Norton security software seems to be coming first circle. Norton AntiVirus quickly became one of the most respected antivirus applications on early Windows platforms. But, as Microsoft progressed through its Windows XP and Vista editions, the Norton brand fell out of favor with many IT professionals. Following a massive code overhaul with the 2007 version, Norton AntiVirus is again winning critical acclaim, and for good reason: the software's detection rates and resource usage are very much improved.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Symantec Corporation
  • Product: Norton AntiVirus 2009
  • Version: Norton AntiVirus 2009 with Antispyware
  • CPU: Intel Pentium 300MHz or faster
  • Disk Space: 150MB free
  • RAM: 256MB RAM or more
  • Supported operating systems: Microsoft Windows XP Home / Professional / Media Center Edition, Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic / Home Premium / Business / Ultimate
  • Additional information
  • Download / Purchase
  • Price: $34.99

Who's it for?

Small businesses and organizations with small and branch office locations will find Norton AntiVirus 2009 a dependable antivirus and antispyware application that, once installed, requires little to no administration. The software delivers quality comprehensive detection and threat removal, while also minimizing resources needed for powering real-time monitoring and program update engines.

Organizations growing beyond 12-15 systems will likely find a centrally-administered security solution more efficient, but organizations with workgroup environments and businesses possessing office locations without servers will be well served by Norton AntiVirus 2009.

What problem does it solve?

Numerous security threats plague Windows users. Viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, worms, robotic attacks, rootkits, browser-based infections, operating system and application vulnerabilities, and other elements all threaten Windows users. Without effective security software, unprotected systems have been shown to become infected within eight to 10 seconds of being connected to the Internet.

Unfortunately, as security risks increased at alarming rates, many antivirus programs became too cumbersome. Security software often slows system performance unacceptably.

In attempts to deliver first-rate protection without unreasonably robbing system resources, Symantec rewrote much of the code for its 2007 version. Technology professionals had been complaining of poor detection rates, heavy resource consumption and even corrupted Windows installs with earlier Norton AntiVirus versions. Beginning with the 2007 version, improvements became noticeable.

Subsequently, TechRepublic declared Norton AntiVirus 2008 (and subsequently Norton AntiVirus 2009) the Right Tool For The Job. Other technology professionals are taking notice, too.

The Windows Secrets newsletter, a popular source for many within the computing field, explored reviews published by PC World, PC Magazine, Maximum PC, and others. In late February 2009, Windows Secrets found Norton Internet Security 2009 (which includes Norton AntiVirus 2009) the number one security suite due to its using "fewer system resources than before without skimping on protection."

Standout features

  • Effective detection - In testing conducted by AV Comparatives, Norton AntiVirus 2009 detected 97.9 percent of infections in on-demand testing. In non-scientific personal experiences loading Norton AntiVirus 2009 on small business systems, I've found Norton's virus detection and removal rates equal to other leading antivirus engines, including AVG and ESET, and superior to several other leading brands (including Trend Micro and McAfee). Further testing by AV Comparatives found Norton's scanning rated "fast" with "few" false positives, winning an Advanced+ certification level.
  • Broad coverage - Norton AntiVirus 2009 delivers effective protection against a wide range of threats, not just viruses and spyware. In addition to common malware coverage, the new edition protects users from botnets and rootkits as well.
  • Low resource usage - Independent testing by AV Comparatives found Norton's scanning engine places little demand on Windows systems. In fact, its independent tests showed Norton consumed just one percent more resources than ESET and BitDefender, which posted the lowest resource-usage results. My own informal tests, meanwhile, showed Norton consumes less than two percent of system resources when providing real time protection.
  • Timely updates - To prove effective, antivirus signatures must be updated regularly. Some security alternatives update just once a day (or less). Norton's pulse updates deliver the latest signatures every 5 to 15 minutes (or faster according to Norton's own documentation), yet without noticeably slowing system performance.

What's wrong?

  • Scalability- Norton AntiVirus 2009 provides effective, efficient protection for small businesses and standalone branch and remote offices. When technology professionals must protect servers and larger numbers of systems, centralized distribution and administration becomes important. Symantec Endpoint Protection is a better solution for larger businesses. But for its market, small businesses and remote branch offices, Norton AntiVirus 2009 fulfills its role very well.
  • Antispyware detection - No combined antivirus/antispyware program provides foolproof protection from the ever-expanding number of spyware threats. While the Norton AntiVirus 2009 antispyware engine detects and cleans a wide-range of malware infections, protection isn't 100 percent certain. For that reason, a second, stand-alone antispyware program may be required in some businesses (depending on potential risk levels).

Competitive Products

Bottom line for business

Within IT circles, debates over the best antivirus program rage just as Ford versus Chevy or Coke versus Pepsi battles do elsewhere. While older Norton products experienced some performance issues, technology professionals willing to revisit Norton security products will be rewarded for their effort. Norton AntiVirus 2009 packs highly effective detection rates, comprehensive coverage and incredibly low resource usage into a single, easily administered package. That's a great combination in any small business or remote office.

User rating

Have you encountered or deployed Norton AntiVirus 2009? What do you think? Rate the product and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of Norton AntiVirus 2009 in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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