Is Your Small Business at Risk from Harmful Malware?
How to Choose Antivirus Software
The top performers in our review are Kaspersky Small Office Security 4.0, the Gold Award winner; Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security, the Silver Award winner; and Panda Endpoint Protection Plus 7.20, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing software to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of these 14 programs.
Chances are if you own a small business, you've worked extremely hard to build and run it, but have you secured it? We live in a virtual age, where everything from our finances to our family photos is stored online. With that technology evolution comes new hazards like malware and hackers. It's not as simple anymore as putting up a fence and locking the door; you need a virtual guard dog. Antivirus software can help you defend yourself and your business from dangerous online threats and malicious attacks.
We've ranked the 14 best small business antivirus software products to protect your business. Whether you are running a few computers or a developed network of connected devices, these products range in functionality to suit your business setup. It's also worth noting that these manufacturers offer other products that might better suit your particular setup, so we encourage you to explore product selection and determine the features that are most important to you and relevant to your small business.
If you find a product among our reviews that draws your attention, it's likely the manufacturer offers additional products to bundle with your software for enhanced security or functionality. There are many different antivirus solutions out there, including free downloads, but protecting your business, employees and clients goes well beyond a basic antivirus function. The products we've selected have enhanced functions and high-ranking scores for protection from AV-TEST, an internationally recognized, third-party, independent test lab that evaluates and rates antivirus and security suite software.
What is Antivirus Software?
Antivirus is a general term people now associate with a wide range of protection. Antivirus is a combination of security measures that detect harmful programs and attacks, block them, or in some cases, prevent you from unknowingly opening your system up to malware. Malware is another general term that describes common threats that you have probably heard of before such as viruses, worms, adware, spyware, spam, phishing attacks, etc. Malware encompasses any malicious digital threat that could be harmful to your network, device or your information. The purpose of antivirus software is to stay ahead of the threats, actively catching hazards and blocking them. There are new threats all the time, and most antivirus software is designed to catch these threats using behavior-based identification. Think of it this way: If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it's probably a duck. The software will catch these similarities and block suspicious activity.
Antivirus software takes the same approach to categorize traffic based on behavior – either accepting it as safe or rejecting it as dangerous. This can sometimes lead to false positive results, like your antivirus blocking you from accessing a website, because it thinks it's harmful when really it's not. That's a small price to pay for security though, and better your devices, personal information and client data remain safe than the alternative, which includes sluggish PC performance or, worse, corrupted and deleted system files or the theft of sensitive information should your computer or network get infected.
How to Use Antivirus Software
Antivirus software is designed to be relatively self-regulating, especially with cloud integration. After you install the software, the program runs itself with little management necessary. Default settings straight out of the box meet industry standards and provide adequate security; however, if you want to go beyond that, you can configure your own settings to whitelist (acceptable) or blacklist (unacceptable) certain programs and websites. Configuration can get as specific as you want, including, for example, a time-of-day feature that blocks websites or applications, say social media websites, between nine and five, but opens up access outside that timeframe or whichever timeframe you set.
Using antivirus can be as easy or as complex as you feel comfortable with. If you have dedicated IT services with your business, then you can pass your desired security settings off to an expert or let them set the rules. If you don't have IT support, you can leave the default settings in place. Another option still is that you can use the integrated support provided by manufacturers to configure your antivirus.
At the end of the day, if you want to get the most out of your antivirus software and feel that your business is secure, then it's necessary to train employees and users. Many well-known cyberattacks could have been prevented with additional training. One example includes social engineering, a method in which a threat, say a hacker, targets your employees based on what they know an employee will do. They use what is socially common to trick your employees. A typical scenario includes dropping an infected USB drive in your parking lot, knowing an employee will likely pick it up and plug it in. Don't make it any easier on a hacker or a malicious program to harm your business; empower your employees with the knowledge they need to proactively prevent attacks and identify malicious tricks.
Another consideration in selecting antivirus software is installation. Depending on your business setup, it might be easier for you to have IT services install the software on a server, but if that's not feasible, then cloud-based antivirus is what we suggest. Hosting your software in the cloud requires less hassle and no server. You only have to install a plugin on your client devices, meaning you'll download a program to run the software on your computer, phone or tablet.
Small businesses have different needs than corporate antivirus software because the size and network of your business is so different, and within the scope of small businesses, there are even more variables and diverse setups from having one computer and a BlackBerry to having 20 workstations and a server. Only you know what's best for your business, so we advise using our rankings as a starting point and exploring what these brands offer. If you are looking into protection software for your small business, you might also take a look at mobile device management software, email encryption software and computer protection software for additional services.
Small Business Antivirus Software: Standard and Advanced
Within the category, there are standard and advanced antivirus products. Think of it like gold, silver and bronze; many manufacturers have tiers of products that go up in cost for premium or advanced functions. You may not need the advanced functions of the top-tier products, though, so before buying, be sure what you're paying for is what you really need. It's easy to pick the best and fanciest product available, thinking it will secure you, but you have to follow up with the product's features and specifications to know whether it will truly work for your business.
There's nothing wrong with standard products as long as you are making sure they fit your business needs. If you don't need email protection or a file shredder, don't pay for those features; go for a standard program instead. You can think of Top Ten Reviews' product lineup as a pageant of brands, all of which are reputable and sufficient. If the featured product is exactly what you need, that's great; if not, check out that brand's other products and explore their various tiers of functionality. Pick the best small businesses antivirus software for your business.
Small Business Antivirus Software: What We Assessed, What We Found
Testing antivirus software can be tricky since you need a large number of computers, a variety of platforms and access to harmful malware, so our evaluation and scoring took into account test results from AV-TEST, a third-party agency recognized for their methods and rankings. AV-TEST performs tests all year long, publishing results every two months, so you always have recent data to go on, and they also use thousands of test scenarios to get an accurate reading.
AV-TEST scores and ranks software in three categories: protection, performance and usability. Multiple tests evaluate these categories, hence the scores. Protection discusses the actual security performance, meaning how well does the software detect and block threats? Performance is a misleading category title because it doesn't actually score the software based on how well it works; instead, this category is about speed. This category is concerned with how the software affects a computer's performance. It tracks a computer's speed before and after installation. Further tests involve running a series of common computer functions, like copying files, and clocking the time difference it takes your computer to complete the task with and without the software installed. Usability evaluates false positive results and the number of times the software misidentifies a safe site or application as a hazard.
In our testing, we installed the software on our test computers, scored the ease of installation, verified product specifications and functions and gathered user experience from each product.
What Should You Look for in Antivirus Software
Protection A solid antivirus software should detect all common malware and effectively catch emerging malware. It is customizable and easy to configure, so you can set up specific security requests. You should look for antivirus software that can do the most for your budget, including provide email protection. Look for a product that has the most useful functionality for your business needs.
Look for a product that won't slow down your computer. The last thing you want is for employees' performance to suffer because the software is making their computers run much slower than they're used to. Look at the products' AV-TEST results in performance to determine which are fastest. Also, look for management features that help you keep a handle on your network. The software should have both cloud and on-premise hosting options and a centralized management dashboard or portal where you can view and manage all your connected devices from one spot.
Consider the software's usability: Is it easy to install? Will you need to perform additional configuration or require IT services to get it up and running? You should look for software that is both easy to use and requires low maintenance. Also, look for a product with as few false positives as possible, which can decrease disruption to your employees.
Help & Support
Also consider the manufacturer's help-and-support options. Some companies charge a fee for IT support, and if that is not something you want to deal with, narrow your search to companies that offer help 24/7 or without charge.
Business is a lot of number crunching, so price is another important consideration. Many manufacturers offer discounts for purchasing multiple-year subscriptions instead of just one year. Also, some products don't offer protection for just one or two workstations; they may start at three or five licenses at a minimum. If you're not sure about a product, use the free trial. Every manufacturer offers this so you can decide if it's worth buying.
Consider the software's compatibility with your devices. For the most part, this probably won't be an issue. But if you are running an older version of Windows, you should make sure it is supported. For example, the antivirus may support desktop XP but not Windows Server XP. Also, if you have Linux or Mac, which are less commonly supported, verify before you buy. An important note, just because the software supports your operating system, be it Mac, Linux or Windows, doesn't guarantee that it will support your device. You have to verify both the OS and the version of your OS. You should particularly note this if you are looking for compatibility with mobile phones or tablets.
Small Business Antivirus: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Look for a product with functionality and features that fit your business's actual needs, one that is affordable, offers high protection, low performance impact and has low interference from false positives. For most small businesses, cloud-based options offer some distinct advantages. We also want to stress that you should work with your antivirus, not against it: Train employees to be alert to the dangers out there. For more information check out our other articles about small business antivirus.
Our small business antivirus software reviews detail each product's highs and lows, but three products stand out. Kaspersky's Small Office Security 4.0 has perfect scores for protection, performance and usability as well as significantly advanced security features, offering the solid real-world protection for your business. Bitdefender also has perfect test scores, and their GravityZone Business Security software has advanced management and help-and-support features. Panda's Endpoint Protection Plus 7.20 rounds out the top products with superior mobile-security features and high scores in malware protection.