If you run a business in 2021, then antivirus software should be considered as essential as the desk in your office or that Monday morning coffee.
From our own hands-on research, we've found that McAfee Total Protection is the best choice antivirus software for a small business. But it's a competitive market, with lots of the main players offering similar features at compelling price points. In this guide, we compare our top choice, McAfee, to the close runner-ups, Bitdefender, Norton and Avast.
According to industry experts, cybercrime will cost businesses $6 trillion dollars in 2021. And, if you think criminals only go after the big names, think again. A Verizon report identified that 58% of cybercrime victims in 2018 were small businesses – those with 250 or fewer staff.
One of the most important solutions in the face of such threats is antivirus software. For a modern business, it's essential that staff computers are protected with a centrally controlled shield against malware, ransomware, phishing scams and attempted firewall breaches. In this guide, we've collected some of the best solutions to help you protect your business, whether you're a five-person company or responsible for hundreds of staff.
Best Business Antivirus
We're recommending McAfee Total Protection as our top choice for business antivirus. That's thanks to its rich range of tools and features, excellent administrative controls, and competitive price points. Close behind it are the business antivirus suites from Bitdefender, Norton and Avast.
Best antivirus software for small business:
- McAfee Total Protection
- Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security
- Norton Small Business
- Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus
In order to find the right antivirus software for your business, we've put the leg work in. We've assessed each app in this guide, trying them out for size ourselves before we give you the final verdict. We know if one app's user interface is confusing, or if there's a distinct lack of features that could harm your business.
We also understand what makes good antivirus software. It's not the lowest price (despite what your finance department might tell you), or the marketing promises on the website. It's how easy it is to operate, how responsive it is to updates, and how well it does its job, which is protecting you, and your business.
McAfee Total Protection
One of the best known anti-virus providers out there, McAfee's reputation is far reaching. Its Total Protection software is a good example of why its offerings are so widely regarded. You may already know McAfee as home security software brand, but the business solution is boosted by an extensive range of protections for companies and their staff. Total Protection comes equipped with other tools to help employees stay safe. This includes actively seeking out ransomware and shutting it down before it can pose a problem, and sniffing out phishing scams that may appear in inboxes.
- Simple interface
- Includes VPN
- Password manager
- Encrypted storage
- No central control hub
- Maximum number of 10 licenses available on one subscription
Of course, McAfee has all the thorough scan options you'd expect, and these can be set by an IT administrator. Individual users can also initiate a quick scan or a more thorough option that will permeate every corner of a computer to hunt down potential viruses.
McAfee Total Protection Features
- Encrypted storage
- Online back up
- Up to 10 devices
- Ransomware protection
McAfee Total Protection Pricing
McAfee's Total Protection package starts at $80 for an annual subscription for individuals, with the multi-device package coming in at $100 per year. It also also offers a range of other features, such as theft protection and rootkit remover, which are charged at an additional fee ($7.99 a month).
McAfee Total Protection – Verdict
McAfee's Total Protection package won't suit larger businesses – they should opt for its Endpoint Protection instead. But for smaller companies, it's a smart choice, offering a wide range of features and with a degree of flexibility that your employees will appreciate.
It's worth noting that unlike the other solutions in this guide, McAfee Total Protection doesn't have a web portal for controlling your employees protection centrally, which is why we think it's best suited to smaller businesses.
BitDefender GravityZone Business Security
BitDefender's antivirus business solution is feature rich, with plenty of functionality to discover. This might not suit all businesses – not everyone wants or needs to be able to change every small aspect of their antivirus offering, after all. But, those that do will be more than happy to use the admin settings and custom features offered here.
- Control console for centralized access
- Feature rich
- Granular level of user control
- Rollback feaure
- May be too in-depth for some
BitDefender GravityZone comes with a powerful central console that offers tool such as website and app blocking, and apply custom securities policies. GravityZone can even treat users outside the company with a different set of rules, if you want it to.
Although it has a rich suite of settings and customizable options, don't worry about this being a high maintenance program. GravityZone is a great product for anyone looking to set up their antivirus and leave it at that. It runs well as a dependable background shield, without the need to be checked in on regularly.
BitDefender GravityZone Features
- Anti-phishing filtering
- Ransomware protection
- Dashboard reporting
- Device control
- Quarantine options
- Rollback feature should a virus get through
BitDefender GravityZone Pricing
BitDefender GravityZone starts at $77 for three devices, and is scaleable depending on your needs. It offers the option for a one, two, or three year subscription, and naturally the price comes down the more time you commit to. If you have a large business, this is a better value prospect than some other antivirus solutions, thanks to its healthy discounts and initial offers.
BitDefender GravityZone – Verdict
On paper, BitDefender GravityZone pretty much has it all. This is a feature-rich offering, giving admins and IT staff all the freedom they want to customize setup. But, it also has the autonomy to run in the background and not need much intervention from individual users or admin staff beyond initial settings. The account console offers a powerful tool for controlling your employees' devices in one place, and some of the features can seriously mitigate the chance of your team succumbing to a virus in the first place.
Add to that the competitive price, especially if you're looking to protect multiple users, and it's definitely one to shortlist.
Norton Small Business
Norton Small Business is a package that takes a mix and match approach, and the licences can be used to protect various devices, such as laptops, PCs or smartphones. The package offers 24/7 support, which can be accessed by the individuals themselves rather than the account holder themselves, either to resolve issues or block access if needed.
- Web portal
- Competitively priced
- Wipe devices remotely
- Virus removal guarantee
- Features depend on device
- Won't suit larger businesses
Norton also offers cloud access, and it's possible to wipe devices remotely should they fall into the wrong hands.
Norton Small Business Features
- Remote blocking
- App scanning
- Web management portal
- Misplaced device alarm
- Remote wipe
Norton Small Business Pricing
Norton Small Business starts at $99 per year for five devices. This could be five different employees, or the same employee with five different devices, as you're paying by device rather than user. As with other providers, Norton offers discounts with the more cover you need.
Stretch it to twenty for example, and it's $250 per year, representing rather good value when held up against other packages.
Norton Small Business – Verdict
While Norton Small Business may be too simplistic for larger businesses, it's a smart choice for smaller companies that want to have full control over the security of their employees' devices. Not all of the features relate to all devices however – for instance, the remote wipe function only applies to Android devices, while some of the security precautions only apply to PCs and Macs.
If the features you need fit the devices your business runs, however, then Norton Small Business represents a good value choice.
Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus
Avast's offering comes in two flavors: with or without a management console. This console offers a central point from which to manage the accounts for each device, and is a great way to stay on top of how well your team is protected, although for companies without an IT department, it isn't ideal. Opt for the version without the console and your employees will be tasked with ensuring that their devices are virus-free themselves.
- Sliding price scale depending on users
- Management console available
- 30 day money back guarantee
- Strong quarantine features
- Not feature rich
- May be too simple for some
Avast comes with some neat extra features too. We like the shredder function, which can permanently delete information that you don't want shared or seen. Avast has had some questions to answer recently about how it shares user data, which may give some extra work to your company's legal team before any contracts are entered into. From our view, the brand is perfectly safe and reputable, though it has endured something of a PR black eye in recent months.
Avast Business Antivirus Features:
- Integrated firewall
- Sandbox space to quarantine any ‘risky' files
- Spam filter
- Tools for avoiding fake websites
- Option for Management Console
Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus Pricing
Pricing is straightforward with Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus. Like the other packages we've rounded up, the exact pricing depends on how many devices you're looking to protect. For one device, you're looking at $40 for one year, $60 for two years and $72 for three years. Of course, the real savings can be made if you add more devices. As an example, five devices for a year comes in at $175.
There's no free trial with this package, but should you decide that the service isn't for you, Avast offers a 30 day guarantee.
There's no addition cost if you decide to take the management console, but be warned that this can't be added later, so make sure to pick the right one for your business when signing up.
Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus – Verdict
Avast Business Antivirus Pro Plus is a good choice for small businesses that are looking for a degree of flexibility, especially those that don't have an IT department, but want a business focused offering rather than a consumer one. It doesn't have some of the bells and whistles of other packages – for example there's no VPN included here or password manager. But, for a straightforward antivirus package, it's a good bet.
What to Look for in Business Antivirus Software
Businesses have slightly different needs to personal users when it comes to antivirus software. Whereas a home package might have a user base of one, it's a different story when it comes to juggling multiple business users on one license.
You want to make sure that the business software you pick has strong admin features that allow total oversight over the protection of your business devices in one place. This way, you can ensure that all your staff are protected, and don't have to rely on individuals to update their own security settings. This is especially important when it comes to remote workers, who may be using unsecured wi-fi connections or networks that are outside of your control.
You can't always be standing over your employees checking what they're plugging into their laptop or PC. That's why it's important to opt for a package that automatically scans any external devices the moment they are connected. This mitigates the danger from a USB stick or external drive that may be infected, even if your staff member doesn't realize it.
When considering which solution to opt for, it's important to think outside the office. The days of the desktop PC being a employee's one-and-only device are truly over. The workforce has gone mobile, and most of us have a laptop, smartphone and other devices in our work arsenal. You shouldn't leave these out of your antivirus plan, so look for software that covers these different devices.
Similarly, consider the operating systems that your company uses. Is the software you're considering both Windows and Mac compatible? Most will be, but it's important to check before you commit. Make sure that the version of your operating system also matches the requirements.
Some providers are so confident in their software that they will offer financial guarantees, and compensate you should a virus slip through their defences, which in the cases of some particularly nasty and expensive viruses, such as ransomware, could prove extremely useful.
Business Antivirus Pricing and Discounts
Pricing is key when looking at sourcing a new software solution. You'll find that most providers will offer a sliding scale, depending on how many employees/devices you want to protect.
For example, Bit Defender's Gravity Zone package works on a 30% discount. This means that it costs $70 for three devices, but you can add more to make further saving as the value of that 30% discount increases.
As some providers will lock you into a year contract, it's worth thinking about the immediate future of your business. If you're expanding quickly, then you'll want to consider this before committing to a limited-device contract that may not be great value as your number of staff increases.
Also, remember that most providers will charge you by device covered, not employee. This means that while you may have, say, 20 employees, you may need to cover 40 devices, should staff have a laptop and desktop PC, smartphone or other device.
Business Antivirus Features
If there's one thing that antivirus providers like to shout about, it's their features. Visit any of the companies' websites and you'll be bombarded with long lists of what their software can do. But, which features are essential and which are nice to have?
Virus detection and removal – Clearly the number one thing you want. If your antivirus software doesn't do this, it's not pulling its weight. From an IT admin point of view, you want this to be seamless, and to require as little user input as possible. Staff shouldn't need to initiate their own virus scans – let your admin control the schedule, as well as decide autoscan settings wherever possible.
Real time detection – You want your antivirus software to be always on the alert, and not waiting for you to schedule a scan before it tells you that nasties have been occupying your system for hours. The best packages will have real time detection to alert you as soon as a virus appears.
Firewall – A firewall will stop any viruses dead before they even have a chance to get into your network or infect your devices. Your IT administrator will likely want full control over corporate firewall settings and visibility of whitelisted sites and services.
Rollback – This handy feature is essentially a time machine for your device, enabling you to wind back time and return to 1BV (before virus). It can be a superb tool should something slip through the net.
Sandbox environment – The name of this will vary depending on the package, but it's a safe environment where your IT department can safely hold and open attachments that have been flagged as suspicious, without harming the network or devices. Once deemed safe, they can be opened by the employee, or if infected, removed entirely.
Spam & Malware detection – This will stop viruses that are attempting to infiltrate your network via your email or messaging service, before they even reach their recipient. This avoids your staff from accidentally unleashing viruses, by removing them instantly.
Control center – All the best business antivirus solutions offer a centralized point, usually a web portal, where admin can control the devices on the system and ensure that all devices are properly protected. This larger your business, the more important this feature becomes.
External device scan – Many rogue viruses can enter systems through external hard drives and USB sticks. Look for a solution that actually scans these devices when they are attached, spotting the malware before it can infect your system.
Help and Support
It might not seem like it sometimes, but all software is designed to be easy to use and simple. However, in practice, it doesn't always work this way, which is why it's important the antivirus software that you choose comes with excellent customer support too, for those times when you, or your staff, need that extra help.
The good news is that all of the packages we've covered here really do deliver in this area. Antivirus providers realize that this is a huge selling hook, and have gone all out to make sure you can contact them whenever you need to.
As a premium business user, you can expect access to 24/7 helplines, as well as online forums and online chat from all these providers, and for this reason its hard to differentiate between them.
However, not all are equal when it comes to the built-in help systems of the software. Some left us a little confused, like BitDefender, which left users a little swamped with a busy interface that required the user to go digging for help. The answer was there, it just wasn't immediately obvious. At the other end of the scale, McAfee's help features were clearly signposted and easy to find.
Ease of Use
Software can be daunting for some, and when it comes to antivirus software, you'll want to be sure that everyone who needs to be able to use it can do so successfully. For some companies, the ideal scenario is that their IT department are solely responsible. But even in this case, it's still vital to have software that's easy to use and doesn't require constant referring back to the help files or on the phone to support.
The very best antivirus packages offer simplicity on the surface, with a wealth of options and flexibility for those that want to do a deeper dive. A great example of this is McAfee's Total Protection, which has a wonderfully clean interface. It appears deceptively basic on first glance, but includes all the essential options up front, with more detailed information tucked away for when you need to access it.
Ease of use is also vitally important when your device actually has a virus. What should you do with it? Remove? Quarantine? The best solutions will offer clear advice on the best course of action for the virus you find, leaving you in no doubt as to what your next steps should be.
Security is one of the key components of any antivirus solution, and it's important that the one you choose can deal with a wide range of malware, ransomware, and any other kind of virus. The good news is that all of the options on the page have got you covered.
A firewall is another key factor of the very best antivirus software, and again, all of our selection on this page come with one as standard. What the firewall does is blocks any viruses before they even get the chance to infect your device.
As email as a common entry point for viruses, antivirus software that comes with the ability to actively scan your inbox and identify suspect messages, flagging them before your employees are tempted to open them, is a must. This can be a major factor in stopping ransomware and spyware programs from infiltrating your system.
Some packages come with a VPN included, which is a superb way to lock down secure access to your corporate network. A business VPN is especially important should remote workers be accessing the internet with networks that are outside of your control. Then there are other extras, such as the Shredder function from McAfee, which permanently deletes sensitive data.
Also of use to some businesses is the ability to remotely wipe devices should they become lost or fall into the wrong hands. Norton Small Business offers this feature as standard, although it's worth noting that it only applies to certain platforms.
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