Should I Pay For An Antivirus?
By: Steve Derrick on October 3rd, 2017
There are a lot of antivirus solutions on the market, and for many, it's not very clear what benefits come from paying for something that many other vendors offer for free. What do you actually get for the money you spend on a commercial antivirus? What's the difference between a normal antivirus and a 'premium' software suite? What do all these terms actually mean?
Understanding the Question:
Let's start at the beginning. A virus is a malicious program written by a computer programmer somewhere out in the world that does not - to put it mildly - have your best interests at heart. Some viruses flood your computer with advertising. Some viruses redirect your web browsing to websites that the writer of the virus controls. Some will even encrypt your pictures and documents and hold them for ransom!
An antivirus program or solution is a program or suite of programs designed to protect from these sorts of threats. Different programs have different features, and cost different amounts of money, mostly dependent on the features they provide. While all antivirus programs provide some level of protection against obvious viruses, other features may provide additional protection against sophisticated threats, or even provide services unrelated to virus protection, such as parental controls or identity theft protection.
Most - but not all - viruses are illegal. The few that are not skirt the laws by bundling themselves as 'search enhancers' or 'toolbars'. It's hard to tell sometimes exactly what benefit they are trying to provide - and that's because they really only exist to serve you additional ads. These sorts of 'unwanted programs' are usually technically not even classified as viruses - but they waste your time and provide no benefit, so many of the better antivirus programs still protect you from them.
What Are You Paying For?
If all antivirus programs - even the free ones - protect against viruses, then why would you pay money for one? Well, it's the additional features that make a commercial antivirus worth the money, and the additional hassle that might drive you away from free products. Free antivirus programs typically come with ads or popups of their own, constantly nagging you to purchase the 'full version'.
For the average home user, the biggest feature that comes with a commercial product is the technical support. If you're having trouble installing the product, or it's throwing up an error that you don't understand, or you've caught a virus that the program was able to detect but not remove, your only recourse with a free product is a Google search. On the flip side, commercial antiviruses have technical support phone lines that can help you with all these issues, sometimes even at no additional cost. Some premium products even come with specialized technical services where a technician can remotely access your computer directly to diagnose problems or investigate issues.
And then there are the added features, which vary by product. Parental controls can help you keep track of what your children are searching for. An integrated firewall might function better than the fairly basic Windows firewall. A higher-end security suite might integrate with your email program to filter out viruses and spam. A hardware monitoring service might track the health of your PC’s components and send up warnings if anything begins to fail. Network monitoring features can lock down your network to prevent intrusions or freeloaders.
So Which Way Should You Go?
A commercial product will protect you in more ways and from more varied threats. The main benefit of a free product, however, is that of course you don't have to pay for it. If you feel confident that you can be vigilant enough about your browsing habits to offset the decreased function of a free antivirus, and are willing to endure the ads nagging you to send them money, then it's definitely an option.
The worst thing you can do is not have any antivirus. While modern versions of Windows do come with some basic security software, that software (Windows Defender in modern versions) consistently rates only very slightly better than nothing at all. Please, for the love of your computer, install something.
Which Product is the Best?
This is a question whose answer is constantly changing. The online threats we face are constantly evolving, and what was a good product five or even one year ago could be very different today. That’s why our first recommendation will always be the Alliance Cares support plan. As the landscape changes, we can keep track of the changes so we can always make sure that the product you have installed is right for you.
The Alliance Cares Plan comes in three tiers.
The Basic Plan is our Managed Antivirus software based on award winning Bitdefender and Vipre antivirus software. We install for you the latest antivirus product and keep it updated, and you don’t have to worry.
The Standard Plan is a combination of the antivirus, as well as 24/7/365 hardware monitoring, weekly reporting, and a free 6-month tune-up during which a trained Alliance technician will remote into your PC and give it a thorough inspection for problems.
The Premium Plan comes with all the above, plus an excellent feature that any computer user can appreciate – unlimited remote support from our friendly Alliance technicians. Do you like the idea of having your own local tech support available on a day to day basis? Do you or a loved one have frequent questions about how to do new things with their computer? We can be there for you.
For our business customers we offer powerful protection plans that include 24/7/365 monitoring and managed antivirus as well.
If you've decided you want to stick with a free solution, then Avast or Avira are the way to go. Avira has a slightly better track record, but the interface is clunky and of all the products, it is the noisiest. Avast has a slick, easy to navigate interface and while it doesn't come quite as highly rated as Avira, it's still a solid product.
All in all, it’s important to remember that while almost any antivirus is better than no antivirus, even the best antivirus is no substitute for being careful online. Find a product that matches the features you are looking for and the price that’s right for you, and most importantly, be careful out there!