G Data InternetSecurity 2012
G Data Software, Inc.
Starts at $34.95 (1 PC/year)
Pros: Built to avoid hogging system resources
Cons: Optional components aren't as vital
Rating (1-5): 4.0
Here's another suite which I knew nothing about before starting this review, but which I plan to keep an eye on--not just for its remarkably low price but also for its solid feature set.
G Data seems to have been built with a good deal of attention towards considerate use of system resources. The program features two separate virus scanning engines: one which scans more intensely but at the risk of slowing your system, and another which imposes less of a load but is less rigorous.
Both are active by default, but you can choose which ones are used in both manual and automatic scans. Scanning can also be automatically paused during high system load -- a nice way to keep the program from interfering with things like major file-copying operations or CPU-intensive work.
Even the program's updater has been put together with some thought toward how to accommodate the user's behavior. Updates can be fetched every x hours (the default setting is one hour), daily, or whenever an Internet connection is newly established. This last option makes the most sense for notebooks.
For additional background scanning, G Data includes a screensaver that runs malware scans whenever your system is idle, but you can always replace this with your own conventional screensaver if you don't want it.
G Data has a couple of optional components that can be set up at install time -- a clutch of parental-controls options, and a data shredder tool. The latter doesn't seem any different from standalone programs like Eraser, and in fact has far fewer options than that program. The former lets you define both sites to blacklist or whitelist, as well as provide timeouts for both Internet and computer usage by the week, month, or day of the week.
Custom block/allow web filters can also be created, based on keywords in the URL, page title, metadata or document body, although you'll want to craft these to be as specific as possible to avoid overzealous blocking. (You can also manually whitelist sites to avoid this problem.)
The vast majority of the default settings need no tweaking. The firewall, for instance, is set by default in "autopilot mode," where the user is never queried about creating firewall rules for applications. Instead, G Data performs its own heuristics to determine what should be allowed access. An experienced user can switch to manual mode and set up rules on his own, but autopilot seems to work fine for most everyday activity.
I was surprised, in a good way, when G Data complained about my wireless network's security, since I use WPA2-PSK encryption, which is about as good as it gets for a home setup. Apparently G Data felt my password was sufficiently insecure, and gave me suggestions on how to improve it.
G Data includes a tool for building a Linux boot CD (or a bootable flash drive, if you have the know-how). Boot it and you'll be taken to a self-contained system-scan tool, a good way to manually mop up after an infection if you're reluctant to do that from within a potentially infected system.
G Data's dual-engine scanning technology, hinted at in its main status window, allow you to balance scanning speed against protection.
ESET's rising reputation is entirely deserved: they've created a solid, fleet-footed program that does its job and stays out of the user's way. G Data's suite is also impressive, equally unobtrusive and with some good thought put toward protecting users systems without hogging their system resources. Avira's suite, though promising, needs more polish in parts of both its interface and user-interaction behaviors before it can really shine.