In our increasingly digitized world, businesses of every size face cybersecurity threats, and the need to prepare for those threats - particularly when it comes to maintaining antivirus software - is inarguable. The Business Continuity Institute (BCI), a global organization for business continuity professionals with more than 8,000 members, characterizes digital threats as the gravest risk facing companies today. The Institute's annual Horizon Scan Report notes that cyberattacks, data breaches and network outages are the top concerns among business continuity professionals when they discuss the risks their companies face.
MIT released its predictions of the types of cyber security threats small businesses need to be most concerned about in 2018. Among them are more breeches of massive consumer databases like Equifax, a phenomenon MIT estimates will only become more common this year. This impacts not just Equifax as a big company, but consumers and small businesses across the country because of the amount of data compromised. And it points out how easy it can be for a smaller company's database to get breached as well.
Another concern is ransomware in cloud-based technology. Any company or individual who has information stored on cloud technology could be at risk if hackers get access to the cloud and hold that data hostage. Plus, MIT points out that AI systems could be compromised or even weaponized in 2018. As AI becomes better at imitating real people online, hackers will have new ways to trick unsuspecting users into installing malicious software on their companies' computers.
Finally, MIT pointed out the potential of cyber-physical attacks, such as those targeting electrical grids, and the mining of cryptocurrencies, which can actually translate into theft of computer processing power.
Large corporations can spend millions defending themselves against cyberattacks. Most small companies, however, don't have those kinds of resources, resulting in many business owners looking for inexpensive or even free antivirus software solutions. Sadly, many settle for less-than-optimal solutions, and some aren't taking sufficient steps to protect themselves.
A recent CNBC/Survey Monkey Small Business Survey found that only 2% of small business owners surveyed viewed the risk of a cyberattack as the most critical issue they face. Another study, the 2016 State of SMB Security, revealed more disturbing figures:
More than half of all small- to medium-sized businesses have been breached in the past 12 months
The most prevalent attacks against small businesses are web-based and phishing/social engineering
More than half (59%) of small- to medium-sized businesses have no visibility into employee password practices and hygiene
More than half (57%) of companies may have a password policy, but they don't strictly enforce it
Many small business owners are operating under the mistaken impression that because they're small, their business is of no interest to hackers. However, the converse is true. Some hackers focus on small businesses precisely because they lack the defenses that large corporations have constructed. A small company can be a juicy target. For example, retailers have customer credit card data and personal financial information. Once a computer or network has been infected with malware, hackers can commandeer company systems to perpetrate other attacks on larger partner companies. And let's not forget ransomware. Once the nefarious enemy has infiltrated your system, hackers can freeze company data and demand a large payment to release it. Since many small businesses don't backup their data consistently, they'll have no choice other than to pay up.
These kinds of attacks can be devastating for a small company. Cisco's 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report notes 38% of companies that experienced a breach lost more than 20% of revenues, while 40% lost more than 20% of their customers. Given the enormous expense and damage that a cyber attack can inflict, choosing the right antivirus software program is a vital decision.
We've reviewed a number of the software offerings on the market. The array of choices can be dizzying, but we've identified some of the best antivirus providers for small- to medium-sized companies. We'll give you the pros, cons and bottom line on some of the best-known names in antivirus software so you can make the right decision to keep your business safe from digital predators.
Trend Micro's OfficeScan 12.0: Best Antivirus Software for Small Businesses
Trend Micro's OfficeScan 12.0 was one of just three software solutions to get perfect scores in AV-Test.org's July and August, 2017, reviews of top security solutions. OfficeScan scored 100% in detecting zero-day and malware attacks, including web and email threats. It also received perfect scores in detection of widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the four weeks prior to testing. Trend Micro OfficeScan also had perfect scores when it came to usability and performance.
OfficeScan is available for Windows and Macs, as well as Android and Apple operating systems, and even has a free trial available to download from the company's website. After that, Trend Micro's standard, on-premise or hosted security solutions start at $37.75 per year per user and provide the following protections:
Shields against ransomware
Monitors, updates, and protects all of your computers automatically
Blocks employee access to inappropriate websites
Prevents infections from USB storage devices
Sets up easily and updates automatically
Provides complete user security for everyone on staff
OfficeScan's advanced security solutions start at $59.87 per user per year for hosted solutions and $62.02 for on-premise solutions. These advanced solutions include the following features:
Support Microsoft Office 365 using Trend Micro Hosted Email Security
Protect Microsoft Exchange email servers
Require no server or maintenance
Shield against ransomware
Block malicious email attachments in real time
Block access to inappropriate websites
Protect mobile devices
Panda Endpoint Protection Plus: Best Antivirus Software for Small Businesses that Need Flexible Options
Panda Endpoint Protection Plus has nearly every option a small business could want, with a variety of features in both security and management. Importantly, Panda offers extensive 24/7 customer support and assistance, including a live chat function. AV-Test.org scores for protection and usability are close to perfect, but some users report it can slow your system if you are running programs that use a lot of temporary resources. Features include internet protection, web site blocking, and email protection as well as firewall monitoring and anti-theft feature that can lock or wipe clean a device that's been stolen or lost. You can use cloud or on-premises hosting, although with the latter option you may need more equipment and more IT expertise in-house. Both options give you a centralized management dashboard that makes it easy to see network activity, view reports for individual computers, and create customized user categories and security policies. For example, you might not want all of your employees enjoying access to Facebook and other time-wasting social media during business hours, but this access may be necessary for employees in roles like sales or marketing. Endpoint plus costs $84.58 per user annually, but Endpoint Protection offers a lot of features with the same AV-Test scores for $59.90 per user. However, according to Top Ten Reviews, 5-user packages are available for $190 annually. It's probably wise to speak with a representative to understand the best pricing options for the features you need.
G Data AntiVirus Business: Best Antivirus Software for Small Businesses That Need Advanced Security Features
If advanced security is the most important feature in choosing an antivirus program, then G Data AntiVirus Business is a solid option. The downside is that the product can be both difficult and time consuming to install. If you don't have in-house IT support, you may need outside assistance in both installing the software and for ongoing management. The plethora of features for users includes internet and email protection, spam blocking, and the ability to block particular categories of web sites. A robust firewall will filter network traffic and block any pernicious attempts to gain access to your network. Anti-theft protection is available for most devices, and will enable you to lock or wipe devices that have vanished. A file shredder is available to permanently erase deleted files that still exist on the device. You also get online banking and browser protection, defense against manipulated USB devices, anti-ransomware and more. Pricing information isn't available online, so you'll have to contact a company representative to get a quote.
To find the best antivirus software for small businesses, we began by talking to business owners themselves, as well as some of the IT professionals who advise them. We asked them to talk about their choice of antivirus software, what features are the most important to them, what informed their choice of provider, what they love about their current antivirus software, and what they think is missing. Cost is always a consideration, but users are typically concerned with protection and performance as well as ease of use. Ariana Meyers, owner of Right at Home, a Marin County, California provider of in-home care for senior citizens, noted that price and reputation were a deciding factor in her choice of Norton Symantec. "Norton came in at a good price point for a multi-user license, and the user-friendly interface makes it easy to change which devices are protected, which is very helpful as we continue to expand," she told us.
We also did extensive research online, reading hundreds of consumer reviews and complaints, and poring through numerous review web sites. Then we narrowed down our list of antivirus programs to the most commonly mentioned names.
With the short list of 12 antivirus programs in hand, we scrutinized each company's website to compare and contrast the options offered. We watched their tutorial videos and reviewed the customer resources offered by each.
Based on our research, we developed these criteria, which we used to evaluate each provider:
- AV-Test scores
- Impact on system speed and performance
- Protection against malware
- Detection of malware
- Incidents of false positives
- Frequency of updates
- Ease of installation
- Cloud-based vs. on-premises
- Customer service options
- Platforms supported
More Antivirus Options for Small Businesses
Kaspersky Small Office Security 5.0 was another security solution to receive perfect scores from AV-Test. So why didn't it make our top picks? Kaspersky has been in the news recently following a discovery that hackers sponsored by the Russian government had breached the software two years ago. According to reports from The New York Times and The Washington Post, Kaspersky software installed on an NSA employee's home computer had identified NSA-created malware and issued the appropriate alerts. These hackers gained access to the Kaspersky alert and used the information in an attempt to gather data on U.S. intelligence programs. Last month the U.S. government made a decision to stop using the firm's software, and several retailers, including Best Buy, opted to remove the product from their shelves.
That said, the software stopped 100% of malware attacks as well as the new threat of zero-day attacks, which exploit security holes in software that are as yet unknown to the vendor. The software's detection of widespread and prevalent malware discovered in the four weeks prior to testing came in at 99.9%.
Kaspersky also achieved a perfect score in usability and in performance.
Bitdefender Endpoint Security 6.2 gets near-perfect scores across the board from AV-Test and is a great choice for small businesses that don't need to worry about mobile device management or other bells and whistles, but do want the most robust level of security. Installation can be a bear, but the dashboard is easy to use. The biggest downside is that the software doesn't offer device location services for lost or stolen phones, and there's no file shredder. See our Bitdefender Endpoint Security review.
Sophos Endpoint Protection is a good option in that it supports all platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile devices. However, AV-Test scores were lower than some other contenders when it comes to performance and usability.
ESET Endpoint Security offers a full range of features and is an excellent option for identifying and blocking nastiness like Trojans, adware, viruses and the cornucopia of malware that lurks in the ether. There are two negatives, however, that gave us pause. First, the downloading and installation process can be very challenging. The software can also have a negative impact on system performance.
McAfee Endpoint Security 10.5 is available only in the Cloud. The management features are convenient and the protection robust, but the software is a resource drain and gets a 5/6 from AV-Test for performance. However, cloud hosting makes management a lot easier and McAfee has extensive resources to help users, including 24/7 support in the form of phone, email and live chat options. There's also a helpful online knowledge base that may answer enough questions to let you avoid any customer service contact.
Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business received nearly perfect scores from AV-Test, and is available on-premise or in the Cloud. SEP offers high functionality, but the selection of available features doesn't rival many other options on the market. For example, the software offers email protection for only Lotus Notes and Outlook.
F-Secure Client Security 12.31 scored well in AV-TEST's review except in performance, where it received just 4/6 because it caused slower load times for web pages as well as slower installation of frequently used applications.
This article was updated February 9, 2018.