Free Anti-virus vs paid for Business 2019 (Updated)
Since I wrote the original article last year, I have had day to day experience of both the Free and Paid Anti-Virus Software mentioned below.
I have also tested updated 2019 AV software and will add comments to reflect my experiences.
The nature of viruses has changed since the early days of the world wide web.
In those days viruses would format your C drive or create annoying popups with no purpose other than the creator’s amusement. Nowadays it’s all about money – ransomware, phishing, spear phishing, etc are all based on the same premise – stealing your hard earned cash.
Virus Kits made to order on the Deep Web are then sold to criminals who target companies and individuals or release them into the wild.
Having said that, there are plenty of Free Anti-virus products that protect well against these threats.
Luckily, Windows 10 now comes with Defender Anti-malware built right in to the operating system. This means you are protected straight away.
Although Windows Defender Antivirus is much more sophisticated than in previous versions of Windows it it still not, in my opinion, production ready. The Anti-malware tool is more primitive than other freely available software.
For a small business having Free Anti-virus running in the background works perfectly well and saves the cost of software licensing and from personal experience I have found when the paid Anti-virus software expires there can be issues removing it to install other software (Norton I’m looking at you!). It’s a true set and forget and for most use cases prevents against any viruses that may crop up.
Free Anti-virus software needs individual installation which can be time consuming, so this works best for small companies with less than 20 users. Ideally companies with no centralised authentication such as Active directory.
There are ways to mitigate this – see “Automate your Free Anti-Virus Deployment” below.
“Don’t select / install more than one anti-virus program at once or you will have serious performance issues.”
If you install an anti-virus program on Windows 10, Windows Defender disables itself. Now you don’t have two Antivirus programs using resources – this is not a situation you want to find yourself in.
No centralised control of company Anti-virus. No deployment policies you can rollout to get a consistent, company wide experience across all devices. As mentioned – a small company who want a set and forget approach won’t need to worry about this.
Many Free Anti-virus software get you to try and upgrade to a paid service by offering you extra features the free service does not provide.
From real world usage I have received complaints from customers especially for Avast as it has a lot of pop-ups most of which are trying to get you to upgrade to their paid version – this can become annoying and looks unprofessional and as a result I am taking Avast off the top spot and putting it down to 2nd.
Automate Your Free Anti-Virus Deployment
To speed up install time, instead of having to accept all the defaults you can have a one touch install solution using https://ninite.com.
Go to the site, select which software to install and Ninite creates a small install package for you which downloads the latest version of the software you selected and says no to any bloatware. You can combine Anti-Virus software with other software in one small installer. Web Browsers, Compression Tools, Utilities, Media Software and many more are available.
Whats more, for the small company IT guy, you can use the same Ninite install exe to install the newest and same software packages as everyone else. Even is the Ninite download is from a year ago, it fetches the latest installs to give an up to date, consistent experience.
Ninite can create installers for Avast, Malwarebytes, Avira, AVG, amongst other less popular clients.
Free Anti-Virus for Business Recommendations
1. Bitdefender Free Antivirus – Great anti-malware and Anti-virus but can’t run quick scan or schedule scan – good for a real set and forget small business environment.
2. Avast Free Antivirus – This has good anti-malware protection and hardened browser and password manager and has a relatively light footprint but with too many annoying popups asking to upgrade I have relegated it to 2nd place.
For Mac however, Avast is the winner – fewer ads and one of the few Free Anti-Virus Software that has Mac versions for download.
Paid Anti-Virus for Business Recommendations
I keep my recommendations from the previous article for paid Anti-Virus.
1. Webroot Endpoint Security – Very lightweight compared to others – they claim that you can run this with another Anti-virus because of tiny footprint (although don’t, obviously). Everything is run in the cloud so it removes load on workstation and best of breed machine learning detection.
2. Symantec Endpoint Protection Cloud. Symantec have worked on their product to bring it into the cloud and give it a lighter footprint and they have mobile protection which Webroot doesn’t.
Both can also automate roll out with Active Directory using Group Policy and push out policies and centrally administer but then many other solutions also provide this capability. They contain Endpoint Protection, not just Anti-virus which also helps prevent IPS and Network attacks.