Web Informant #265, 10 October 2001:
Norton Anti-Virus 2002 a winner

http://www.strom.com/awards/265.html

It is reassuring in these days of bloated software with feature-itis to find something that is actually leaner, better, and just all-around more usable. And especially so in these virus-troubled times when it is foolish to not protect your PC from attacks.

The new Norton Anti-Virus 2002 is a tremendous piece of software. It takes a good product and makes it better, by doing a few things really well. For example, the defaults right out of the box are set for maximum protection for your desktop -- something that wasn't the case with earlier versions. (And something that Microsoft should learn from and emulate with versions of all its products, including their web server software. But that is grist for another essay.) Symantec has trimmed the overall number of settings and dials to turn in the 2002 version. Most users won't have to change any of the options at all. Second, the older product required a few reboots to get everything setup. With my tests, I didn't have to reboot the machine even once, and I was off and scanning my hard disk. The installation seemed quicker than the previous versions too.

The user interface for the 2001 version was a confusing series of screens and menus, so much so that I spent a few pages in my Home Networking Survival Guide book discussing how to set them up. Guess I can look forward to doing my first revision.

Speaking of user interface, there are a few other nice touches here and there with the 2002 product. One example is a hypertext link to the online virus encyclopedia that Symantec maintains: when the software finds a virus, you can click on this link and go right to the pages describing its nasty business and what is needed to remove it from your system. That is a smart idea, and something others should put in their products too.

Finally, the good folks at Symantec have improved their email scanning feature. The software now checks for both inbound and outbound emails for infections. And as someone who once infected an entire corporation by a single mistakenly sent message, I think the outbound scanning is a great idea. I haven't seen this on too many products from the competition. One nice thing is that you don't have to touch your email configuration at all to be protected, and if you add email accounts to your computer after you install the software you are still protected: both of these weren't as simple in earlier versions.

Something that was part of the previous product is the ability to do a clean boot from the install CD and then try to disinfect your PC: this is absolutely essential if you have ever been infected, or suspect something is wrong with your boot sector on your hard disk. The biggest challenge is not to misplace the original CD. You can also make emergency boot disks as well, using a command line utility, if your PC is so old that it can't boot from a CD drive directly.

I have tried various anti-virus products over the years, including the latest managed virus screening service from McAfeeASAP.com. But I keep coming back to Norton, because it just does a better job. The software costs about $50 new, and an upgrade from earlier versions and competing products costs $30. With a $20 rebate, the cost of protection has never been so cheap.

N.B. Michael Horowitz has some valid points and is less thrilled than I about NAV 2001. Check them out here at his web page.

Self-promotions dep't

My first article for the web site 8Wire.com concerns anti-virus protection options for small businesses, and you can read all about it here.

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David Strom
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