Lets face it, being a Security vendor in 2011 is a pretty tough gig. After Microsoft released a very capable free Security Essentials, many consumers were left asking, why on earth would you pay for PC Security ? Let’s take a look at what’s on offer in Norton 360 version 5.0 and what you get extra for laying down your hard earned cash each year.
Norton 360 v5.0 comes with regular PC security, but uses sophisticated file reputation tracking to save users from themselves. This works by sharing Norton results with users around the world, if Norton has seen a file before and is from a known good provider, then its reputation is high. Think of Mozilla 4 installer for example, whereas brand new files, yet to get a reputation would be marked as potentially unsafe. While Norton won’t prevent you from installing it if your really sure its safe, it does provide warnings to get you out of that ‘click yes, get out of my face dialog’ mode.
Along with securing the files on your hard drive, your personal information is also classed as VID (Very important data). Identity Protection is designed to ensure you control just where it ends up. To use this feature, you first have to tell Norton what’s private, this alone is a nervous time. Should a bug ever get onto your computer that compromised Norton, the bad guys would have direct access to the exact data you were trying to protect. This is something that’s incredibly hard to test (I have no reason to suspect it doesn’t work as advertised), Identity protection is a completely optional feature.
What good is data to you if its not backed up. Norton 360 also includes 2GB of online backup for free, with more available at a price. This ranges from 5GB for $49.99 up to $209.99 for 50GB per year. This backup storage certainly comes at a high price, so high, you may be better backing up to an external hard drive and swapping it with a friend each week. The included 2GB is really a gateway drug to get you hooked, I doubt many of us only have 2GB of important data.
Also included in the suite is PC Tuneup, this performs a pretty rudimentary clean-up of your system. Windows temporary files, recycle bin files, temporary internet files are all on the list, but they also get cleaned up if you use the Disk Cleanup utility built right into Windows 7. One feature we miss from OneCare is the ability to control application stubs that launch on Windows startup, reducing system performance. Norton 360 5.0 does include this neat feature.
Something that wasn’t appreciated was Norton feeling the need to let you know (in the foreground) that its running a background scan. Something Microsoft’s Security Essentials excels at is just doing its job without annoying prompts for attention.
There’s plenty of users out there that have been burnt by Norton’s dog hungry versions of old and will now never touch Norton again. Truth is, performance is something Norton has really focused on and it shows, Norton 360 5.0 resulted in no noticeable system performance impact.
With an RRP of A$129 per year for 3 PCs (plus any additional backup storage) its a really tough ask for anyone to justify that cost for a security product. Particularly when what it offers over free solutions isn’t noticeable to the end user. Sure the file reputation and preventative techniques Norton 360 users may be impressive on paper, in reality I’ll be going back to Microsoft Security Essentials and continue to recommend it.