If you ask about budget anti-virus protection on any message board, odds are that AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition will be recommended. It’s a solid program that provides a good level of basic protection and regular updates – and that’s quite impressive when you consider its literally priceless nature. However, if you want full protection for your machine, then you’re going to have to look at something like Grisoft’s security suite, which will require your bank account to shed a few pounds.
Internet Security Home Edition 7.5 is aimed at households with multiple PCs, as the licence covers up to three users. It offers the same anti-virus protection as AVG Professional (with its full technical support and higher speed update downloads that the free anti-virus program lacks), alongside a firewall, anti-spyware and anti-spam modules.
Installation is straightforward, with the only configuration required being the firewall. This is done via a wizard, which sets up the firewall according to whether your machine is on a network or a direct net connection. It also scans through your core applications and works out a set of ‘allow’ and ‘block’ access rules that you can look over and modify as necessary.
The firewall will configure itself for other programs as you go along, asking whether to block them as they attempt to go online, or you can manually specify rules yourself (advanced users can set up more complex rules that only permit certain types of access).
Spam e-mail protection is provided by Spamcatcher. Again, this boasts a range of options, including a blacklist and whitelist of addresses that should always be blocked or allowed, respectively. The basic configuration of this arm of the suite is dead simple: you merely move a slider from ‘more aggressive’ to ‘less aggressive’, depending on how stringent you want the spam filtering to be.
There’s also an anti-spam trainer that can be set to work with your default e-mail client to enhance the accuracy of the program’s spam catching. A further feature is RBL, or the Real-time Blackhole List, a database of known spam senders. When this is turned on, AVG checks incoming mail against the RBL server’s blacklist, and that makes for a useful extra line of defence. Both of these are very handy extras, although RBL does slow down your e-mail client somewhat.
A test scan proved the anti-virus and anti-spyware units to be more than capable. Both sets of definitions are regularly updated and we were particularly impressed with the performance on the spyware front, with the best part of a hundred tracking cookies being detected. That’s a lot more than several other scanners picked up on the same system. Whether it’s overly cautious or not is debatable, but at any rate, this is an area where caution is best closely observed. The only downside was the fact that a full scan wasn’t all that quick and the process is a bit of a resource hog.
This three-user Home Edition is very good value for those with a home network, as it’s only six pounds more than the standard, single-user security suite. If you want to invest in AVG for the long run, there’s a two-year subscription option for £50.95, which works out as a big saving compared to the one year licence of £37.50 + VAT.
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