The Office Letter
Blink Section - Product Reviews
From Volume 6, Number 45
(May 7, 2007)
Norton 360: All-in-One PC Protection
Take antivirus and antispyware, mix in a no-fuss firewall and intrusion prevention, add phishing protection and Web site authentication, and you have Norton Internet Security. Now add backup and PC cleanup of temporary and history files, automatic diagnosis and resolution of common PC problems, and disk optimization and you have Norton 360 for what amounts to a $10 premium.
Using a streamlined user interface, Norton 360 is easy to set up. Best of all, once it is installed it doesn't hound you to make a lot of decisions -- you'll find the default options usually good choices for keeping your system protected. It's a good choice for beginning or occasional users who would otherwise need a lot of handholding to keep their system protected -- think of your parents or users in your department or company you have to support. The Web protection makes sure they don't open a phishing site thinking it's really their bank asking for an account number. The automatic updates mean their virus definitions are always up to date.
The best part of Norton 360 is that it needs very little attention, and in my working with it for the last 45 days, I can say that it's added very little overhead. Yes, backup and scans will slow down your foreground tasks a bit, but Norton's Smart Background Scheduler ratchets things down when you're busy, and I never had to wait for the system to return control of the mouse or keyboard. A red "X" or a green check-mark displayed over the system tray's icon gives you quick indicator of the status of your PC; click on the icon and Norton 360 will explain what's wrong. Easy, easy, easy (and I mean that in a good way).
At the core of this all-in-one security utility is Symantec's well-known security arsenal. From malware detection to its namesake Norton Antivirus protection, Norton 360 covers the basics, including removing viruses from e-mail. There's a new behavior-based malware detector that finds threats in real time (based on how the application behaves), plus it makes smart choices about your environment (preventing unknown computers connect to your system while you're using a wireless public network).
The program is, thank heavens, unobtrusive; it makes intelligent decisions without hassling you to approve its decisions (though you can set it verbose mode or drill down into the details if you wish). For experienced users who don't want to spend time tweaking settings, an out-of-the-box solution is just what I want, and Norton 360 makes it easy to set up and forget.
Setting protection is mostly a "check the boxes" affair. Many of these options allow you to drill down to the settings or policies Norton 360 uses and fine tune the settings, though not always to the degree I'd like. For example, you can turn e-mail scanning on or off, but not opt for inbound message scanning but reject outbound message scanning.
Figure 1 - Norton displays the results of a scan
in easy-to-understand language
Click to enlarge
Backup is one area that exemplifies the simple design. By default, you can check the types of files you want to backup (financial files, documents, contacts, e-mails, etc. -- Norton tells you the total number and size of the files in these categories) as well as additional folders you specify, lets you specify the backup destination, and you can (optionally) define a regular time (weekly or monthly) for the backup (assuming you're not backing up to CD or DVD). Another "automatic" schedule setting runs incremental backups in the background during idle time.
You can also use a Secure Online Storage account to save your files on Norton's servers, assuming you're comfortable with that solution (the first 2GB is free, additional blocks can be purchases, such as 5GB for $29.99 and 10GB for $49.99). I disabled that option. It's not that offline storage isn't secure -- it's just that I don't want my files anywhere I can't physically control them, so I prefer to backup files to an external hard drive or even a low-cost thumb drive (especially now given some with capacities of 20GB or more). Fortunately, backup lets me select any drive I want as the destination.
The utility provides backup basics: you can only define one scheduled backup, so you can't backup one folder weekly and your e-mails daily, for example. (You can, however, perform manual backups.) The biggest problem is that if you decide to change options, you must wait while the program rescans your hard drive, looking for files to back up. If you've selected an entire drive for backup, you could be waiting awhile just to remove a folder.
Figure 1 - Norton's dashboard lets you
know when something needs attention
Click to enlarge
You can install Norton 360 on up to three systems, making the $79.99 price even more palatable. (At press time Symantec was offering a special introductory price of $49.99, which is even better -- see the URL below.) Note that this price includes updates for the first year; you'll need to renew your service 365 days from installation.
Considering that you get antivirus, all the intrusion and "ware" protection (spyware, adware, malware), phishing protection, tuneup (removing temporary files or launching Window's built-in disk optimizer), and backup, Norton 360 is just about everything you'd want to protect your system. It requires Windows XP or Vista (both 32- and 64-bit versions), 256MB of RAM, and 300 MB of hard drive space -- which means it should run on most systems built within the last several years. For more information, visit
where you'll also find a free, downloadable trial version.
-- James E. Powell
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