Product Reviews

Avast Business Antivirus

Avast Business Antivirus is a new business-oriented endpoint protection tool which aims to combine the very best of Avast and AVG technologies.

A lengthy list of features starts with the security essentials: antivirus, behavior monitoring, and real-time file, email and download scans, along with smart blocking of dangerous URLs.

Security suite-level tools include a spam filter and an intelligent firewall. The Wi-Fi Inspector looks out for network vulnerabilities, a sandbox runs dubious apps in an isolated environment, shielding the rest of your PC, and a rescue environment helps to remove even the most stubborn and stealthy threats.

The price is reasonable at $39.99 (£32) per year for a single desktop (Windows or Mac), with discounts available as you add users and years. For example, a 10-user, three-year licence costs $629.80 (£505), or $20.99 (£16.80) per PC per year.

If you need more power, Avast Business Antivirus Pro extends the package with Exchange and SharePoint protection, a data shredder and more. Prices start at $49.99 (£40) per PC per year.

The top-of-the-range Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus throws in an Avast SecureLine VPN subscription and a password manager, and is priced from $59.99 (£48). SecureLine isn’t the fastest VPN, but it’s impressive enough and at only $10 (£8) a month extra, there’s no doubt it’s good value.

All packages can be installed and controlled from the individual endpoint, or managed remotely from a cloud console – it’s your call.

Setup

Avast Business Antivirus is available as a 30-day trial build which you can download immediately. Avast doesn’t demand your company name, location or phone number – just your name and email address.

Setup can be very simple. Download, run, and work through the wizard, accepting all the defaults, and it’s over in less than a minute.

Hit the Customize button, though, and it’s a very different story. Avast gives you complete control over which features to install and which to leave out, very handy for business users who are running the package alongside other security tools.

Compatibility is a highlight, too, with the package still installing on anything from Windows XP SP3, Windows Server 2008 R2 or macOS 10.9 and later.

Install absolutely everything and the package could grab more than 1GB of drive space. That’s bulkier than a lot of the competition, but not enough to affect most users. It doesn’t hog too many system resources, either. Avast uses four background processes, but they’ll typically grab only 50-60MB RAM between them.

Browsing Avast’s files showed the package included elements from Chromium, OpenVPN, OpenSSL and Mailshell’s spam filter. All its files, folders and processes seem to be properly protected, and we were unable to disable or disrupt the program with our simple test attacks.

Features

Avast Business Antivirus uses the same familiar interface as Avast’s home user product. An opening screen displays your current security status and can run a multi-purpose ‘Smart Scan’ with a click, while other functions are organized and accessed by a left-hand sidebar. There’s a lot to explore, but every button has a brief text explanation – ‘Secure DNS’ has the caption ‘Avoid fake websites’ – so even the least technical of users will quickly find their way around.

Click the initial Smart Scan button and Avast runs a quick antivirus scan, and looks for network vulnerabilities, bad browser add-ons and password issues. Sounds complicated, but it’s surprisingly speedy, and typically took from 70 to 100 seconds to complete on our test PC.

Malware detection was above average in our quick checks. We’ve had some false alarms with Avast products in the past, but there were none this time.

Opening the Antivirus panel gives access to quick or full system scans, removable media checks, an option to scan specific folders, or schedule a boot-time scan, detection techniques to use, reports to be generated, and more. You can also scan files, folders and drives directly from the Explorer right-click menu.

If this somehow isn’t enough, you can create and save custom scan profiles. If you need something that will run a very thorough scan of Office documents on specific drives, for instance, you could build and save it in a couple of minutes. This then appears on the ‘Other Scans’ page, and you’re able to launch it whenever you like.

Accessing these functions can take a few clicks – the ‘Quick Scan’ is at Protection > Antivirus > Other scans > Quick Scan – but overall it’s a well-designed system, easy-to-use and very customizable.

A separate Rescue Disk feature creates a bootable environment for cleaning badly infected systems. Avast can write this directly to a USB key, or save it as an ISO image for writing to CDs or DVDs, or for use with your preferred tools.

Avast Business Antivirus scans downloads and filters dangerous URLs by default, but the package also provides a second layer of protection in Avast Online Security. This installs as an add-on for Chrome, Opera, Firefox and IE (but not Edge), highlights dangerous URLs in your search engine results and does a reasonable job of protecting you from phishing sites.

Elsewhere, the spam filter worked well for us, automatically scanning inbound POP3 and IMAP messages and adding a ‘*** SPAM ***’ warning to the subject line of anything dubious. Outlook users get the messages automatically moved to the spam folder, but everyone else will have to set up a custom rule in their email client. The filter successfully detected 85% of spam in our tests, which is better than many competitors, and you can tweak a few settings to maybe improve results further.

Avast’s firewall is more about ease of use than low-level network power, but that’s fine for a general-purpose product. The module automatically detects your networks, monitors applications and intelligently allows or blocks connections. You don’t have to do anything to make this happen, but experienced users can customize their protection with a few advanced settings.

The network options continue with Secure DNS, a simple tool which avoids DNS hijacking by setting your system to use Avast’s DNS servers.

Finally, the Home Network Security module checks your local network for vulnerabilities. This starts with a simple scan, listing connected devices, their IP addresses and device type, which is useful all on its own. After that the module highlights security holes such as weak passwords, or routers that are accessible from the internet, and gives you a little help on how these issues can be fixed.

Protection

Avast products have always performed well in our simple malware detection tests, and Avast Business Antivirus was no exception, but to understand the big picture we also check out the results from the major testing labs.

AV-Comparatives’ Real-World Protection Test ranks the performance of 20+ of the top antivirus engines against the very latest threats. The combined February-June 2017 reports placed Avast and AVG in a mid-range ninth and tenth place, although one later result (July 2017) ranked them second and third.

SE Labs April-June Home Anti-Malware report covers just eight products, but also places Avast and AVG at a mid-range equal fifth place.

Avast’s best results are at AV Test, where Avast Free Antivirus regularly achieves malware-blocking rates at or close to 100%. The most recent report also says Avast raised very few false alarms during testing, achieving less than the industry average.

These are decent scores, especially for an older and less powerful product. Avast Business Antivirus has more features and combines the best of Avast and AVG, and we expect test results will show even better protection over the next few months.

Final verdict

A versatile endpoint protection tool with improved antivirus, an intelligent firewall, quality spam filter and some welcome extras. It doesn’t quite match Kaspersky’s Endpoint Security, but is still a capable package which deserves a place on your shortlist.


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