Small business owners face the challenges of maintaining parity with larger companies on a much reduced budget. Free antivirus software options make the decision to switch to a managed antivirus option a tough sell, but a free option only works for very small businesses. You know, at some point, you will need to switch to a managed solution, but the big question is when? When you have only a few terminals, using free antivirus software will get you by, as long as it stays updated. There are many options for free packages, so be prepared to do some research and testing to find the one that best fits your needs.
Recommendations for Unmanaged/Free Antivirus Options
Small businesses with limited IT support and lacking the infrastructure to switch to a managed service provider should consider Microsoft Security Essentials. Not only is MSE free with each genuine copy of the Windows operating system, it is designed to work with the system, giving you an unmanaged protection option without dramatically impacting system performance. There are many free options so do your research and testing and understand their limitations.
The Downside to Unmanaged Antivirus Options
The problem with relying on unmanaged antivirus software is that it only works when it is updated and turned on. Another reason is the definition updates for new threats can be slower to get to your system than a paid version. Computer users can turn off protections, uninstall the software or fail to allow automatic updates, making the software obsolete. Even when you have a policy in place to limit online activities, it is a challenge to get the necessary employee buy-in. Every person using computers in your organization must be trained on Internet safety and the importance of antivirus software. This is a big hassle and can carry a big price tag if you need to pay for employee training.
Managed Antivirus Software Ensures Protection
The difference between managed and unmanaged antivirus software is fairly simple: Managed software removes control from the end-user. In order to uninstall or disable your antivirus software, an employee would need a special password. Security updates download automatically, without any input from the user. Typically the agent software that provides the antivirus solution to your computers also creates an asset inventory of your computers and the software installed on them, another value-add to a managed program. This asset inventory can typically be put into an excel spreadsheet and provided to you at no cost. Your IT support can centralize the process of Internet security, making their jobs easier. Managed antivirus software is a win-win for everyone.
Where Is the Catch with Managed Antivirus Software?
When a product is obviously superior, the first thing you do is look for the catch. Manage antivirus packages have no real downside. Sure, they are not free, but the cost is minimal, and the benefits enormous. Managed antivirus service providers typically bill on a per license basis, meaning you pay for each computer covered. The individual fee is negligible, although the total cost can climb quickly depending on the number of units. Before making a decision based solely on cost, do a quick price comparison: Inexpensive license fees vs. Cost to have computers scrubbed by expert IT professionals. Even one infection can cost more than your licensing fees
The biggest reason why managed services always come with a price tag is that it requires human oversight. A managed service provider takes the time to look at your service and ensure that everything is running smoothly. They check to ensure all software and security definitions are downloaded and applied and all systems that are part of the program have the software installed and active. Should they see an issue with a system they will get in touch with the SMB owner or end user to rectify the problem. Typically this is all covered under the cost of the monthly fees.
When to Make the Switch
There is no set time when switching to a managed antivirus service provider makes the most sense, but if you have more than 5 computers, seriously consider a managed option. Of course, you do need the necessary infrastructure to support a managed antivirus solution, so if you do not have an always on internet connection, think about installing one. Your computers should have a fairly current Operating System (OS), of at least Windows XP or newer. Also, moving to a managed antivirus solution will typically require the removal of your existing antivirus application and a scan of your systems so you will know quickly if you had any issues once you get on the program.