Security and anti-virus software plays an essential role in protecting your company's servers and computers.
It provides a key line of defence by detecting, blocking and removing viruses, spyware and malware (malicious software including ransomware) before it can do lasting damage.
What is security and anti-virus software?
Security software helps keep your company computers and network secure by analysing files and data for anything that looks suspicious. Most security packages will:
- Monitor files as they are opened, to ensure they haven't been infected by a known virus or piece of malware.
- Monitor your computer's network and internet connection, in case malicious software or hackers are trying to connect to your system.
- Check files as they enter your network, usually by scanning email attachments and downloaded files.
- Periodically scan all the data on your computer, in case any undetected malware is lurking there.
Do I need security software for my Mac?
Historically, Apple Macs have suffered fewer security problems than Windows computers. However, as Apple's market share has grown, so has the number of threats.
These days, it's wise to run security software on your Mac.
As well as protecting you, it will reduce the risk of unwittingly passing viruses on to colleagues or contacts that have Windows computers.
Viruses and malware can spread via infected websites, emails and files sent to your business.
Security and anti-virus software identifies these threats by comparing files on your computer to the electronic 'signatures' of known viruses.
Although security software hugely reduces the chance of your business suffering a virus infection, it's not infallible. Most packages only protect reliably against known threats.
It also takes more than just security and anti-virus software to stay safe. It won't stop thieves making off with your server, a dishonest employee stealing your company database, or a fire damaging your IT equipment.
Types of security software
There are many security and anti-virus packages on the market. Most offer similar core protection:
- Virus and malware protection, to keep viruses and nasties off your systems.
- A firewall, to block suspicious network connections to and from your computer.
- Email protection, to block dodgy attachments and 'phishing attempts - emails that look genuine but are scams to trick you into sharing sensitive information.
It's usually easiest to get a package offering all these functions in one. There are two main types of software:
- Standalone security software. This must be installed and managed on each individual computer. It's good for companies with up to five computers. However, because it's managed on an individual basis, it gives your staff more freedom to disable protection or updates, which can leave your business at greater risk of infection.
- Centralised security software. These packages give you a central control panel to manage the protection across all your computers. Setting up a centralised package requires some expertise, but usually works out cheaper and more effective for businesses with more than five computers.
Every computer and server in your business should be protected by security software. You should also consider installing it on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, especially if they hold critical data.
Choosing anti-virus and security software
Because security and virus protection is so critical, it's important you choose software from a reputable company.
There are some big names in the market, including McAfee, Panda, Kaspersky and Norton. Depending on the features included, expect to pay £20 - £50 per user or device, including updates for two years. A good IT supplier will be able to advise on the best option for your business.
Anti-virus software is only as good as your updates
Once you've set up your security software, you must keep it up to date. New threats emerge daily, so the software should check for updated signatures at least once a day.
After the first year or two, you'll probably have to pay a monthly or annual fee to receive updates. Do not be tempted to cancel your subscription, as this will leave you vulnerable to new threats - which are evolving all the time.