The best security suite will be one that meets your needs without exceeding your budget. After all, there is nothing more important than your computer security as you we all know what the average person stores on their computer.
It’s easy to find just any collection of security programs—there are dozens of choices—but it’s a challenge to find one that offers the features you need without charging for the features you don’t need or can get for free elsewhere.
For example, almost every security suite includes a firewall, but there’s something about firewalls you may not know:
The Firewall Secret
Firewalls are really simple. They tell Windows to reject any incoming connection unless it’s in response to a connection you made earlier. It’s like a spam filter which blocks email from anyone who isn’t in your address book.
Any programmer can write this type of basic firewall. The trick to firewalls are the exceptions—how do you configure the firewall to let in connections you haven’t previously established. This is similar to our analogy of a spam filter: how do you program the spam filter to let in email from people outside your address book without also letting in spam?
Configuring exceptions to your firewall can be easy or hard. Better programs make it easy; cheap or free programs usually make it hard or nearly impossible, so the question you need to ask yourself becomes: do I need firewall exceptions?
The best firewall program was always Zone Alarm but now it is an awesome security suite as well.
Most people don’t need exceptions. If you don’t need exceptions, then I highly recommend that you go with a free firewall, such as the firewall built directly into the latest versions of Windows.
If you do need exceptions, look for a firewall product (perhaps bundled with a security suite) that makes exceptions easy to configure.
What You Really Pay For
The core feature for most security suites is the anti-virus scanner. Most anti-virus scanners work on two levels: first they scan incoming files to your computer to block viruses before they can infect your computer, and then they periodically scan the files on your computer to detect viruses which have already infected your computer.
You need anti-virus software which does both steps. Some cheap anti-virus software does only one of these steps, omitting the other.
But the real difference between high-quality and low-quality anti-virus software is how fast it responds to new viruses.
Each computer virus is different from previous viruses. Sometimes they’re just a minor update to a previous virus; sometimes they’re a completely new virus. Hackers create these differences to fool anti-virus software so older anti-virus programs don’t block the new or updated virus.
Anti-virus programs aren’t smart enough to identify new versions of viruses by themselves—the software needs a human to program them with details about the new or updated viruses. These human programmers cost money, so big anti-virus companies with lots of money can afford to hire programmers to frequently update their software.
Smaller anti-virus programs typically use a shared database of virus information to update their software. They save money doing this, but their database isn’t complete and is often weeks behind the major anti-virus companies.
If you want the best security suite, you need the best anti-virus software, and that means you’re going to have to buy from one of the major security software companies.
The Best Deal On The Best Security Suite
Most security suites offer free trials for 30 days or longer. (You may need to search the Internet for a coupon code, but it shouldn’t be hard to find one.)
I highly recommend that you try several products in a row to see which one fits you best. Just install the product and keep track of what it’s doing on your computer for a few weeks. If it makes your computer excessively slow, count that against it. If it finds a virus, count that for it.
Keep a few notes about each program and come back after you’ve evaluated two or three programs and decide which is best for you. But whatever you do, don’t run several security suites all at the same time—that will often slow your computer down to a crawl.
Consider whether you’ll be tweaking your firewall. If not, use the Windows firewall or any other decent firewall which costs you nothing extra. Then consider how important anti-virus security is to you—if it’s critical, use anti-virus software from one of the big three security companies. Finally, take advantage of a free trial to make sure you’ve really found the best security suite.