Defend your business’s digital assets against the worst computer viruses and malware of 2021. Here are our favorite antivirus software choices to help you get started.
Cybercriminals often target small businesses assuming such entities are less likely to have cybersecurity defenses. That’s why it’s vital to shatter this assumption and protect your business’s data like your livelihood depends on it—which it certainly does.
Viruses are the classic age-old digital threat, but ransomware, keystroke loggers, and other more insidious attacks are constantly evolving. That’s why for 2021, we’ve analyzed the top cybersecurity software greatly based on robust, proactive features that stop attacks from ever occurring in the first place.
Let’s find the best antivirus software for your business.
While Avast excels at all the essentials, such as real-time malware protection, its true allure stems from its thoughtful extras at one of the lowest per-device prices we’ve seen. For example, the platform dishes out email-based threat defense, Wi-Fi vulnerability detection, webcam hacking protection, and even mobile phone camera captures of a thief’s face, to name a few perks. With a unit cost of only $13.99 per device, it’s hard to beat Avast’s outstanding all-around value.
Plus, Macintosh users will rejoice at Avast’s thorough coverage of Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and Mac OS computers. We find the protection level comparable to the platform’s Windows and Android features—a similarity not commonly offered in this software genre.
Keep in mind that Avast is most cost-effective if you have perfect multiples of 10 devices. That’s because each license only covers exactly 10 devices, with no option to add or subtract some. So, if you exceed this allotment, you’ll need to fork over another $139.99, even if it’s just to add one more phone or computer.
Also, the platform doesn’t work on Windows file servers, so you’ll need another software solution if such internet-based storage applies to your business.
AVG, a subsidiary of Avast, impresses with its premium antivirus software focused on endpoint protection, which refers to advanced defenses covering all parts of a business’s infrastructure beyond basic desktop computers and mobile phones. In AVG’s case, this includes anything that runs Microsoft’s various server systems or the Windows operating system, such as kiosks, billboards, and potentially even newer refrigerators.
One superb, proactive feature is AVG’s Behavior Shield, which works in the background to forensically analyze the way a software title runs. This helps detect malicious programs that spoof legitimate applications, usually without any clear signs of criminal behavior.
And while AVG is higher-priced due to its far-reaching endpoint protection, the platform offers bulk discounts on a sliding scale, starting with five devices. Although 10 devices, for example, will still cost a pricey $37.59 per device, this is more digestible than the suite’s above-average $46.99 starting cost—and still lower than some competitors, such as ESET.
Norton is virtually a household name due to its long-standing, easily implemented protection of home computers. But the brand’s small-business solutions are equally deserving of widespread praise for similar user-friendly value.
Much like the home version, the Norton Small Business package sports a beautiful, intuitive user interface that’s jargon-free and chock-full of easily understood icons. All of its core anti-malware features are immediately accessible without confusion. Meanwhile, the platform includes real-time protection in the background via services such as its internet browser protection that proactively blocks phishing websites from loading.
All of this simplicity doesn’t mean less coverage, though. The antivirus suite still provides comprehensive protection for Windows and Mac OS computers, along with Android and iOS mobile devices.
Plus, the platform is backed by 24/7 customer support, making it easy to find help regardless of your business’s operating hours.
Undeniably, Avira’s modest, low-priced platform is best suited for budget-conscious small businesses needing no-frills malware protection. Bottom line, you simply won’t find the sophisticated bells and whistles seen in many competitors.
But, if Avira still sounds like your perfect match, then we think the platform excels at delivering thoughtful features beyond core antivirus protection. For example, the software suite offers a computer cleanup tool that deletes unused files, identifies resource-hogging applications, and updates hardware drivers to keep peripheral devices functioning smoothly. While this function isn’t unique to Avira, it is often overlooked in many antivirus titles, leaving users to inconveniently source additional software to optimize their PCs.
Data privacy lovers will gush over the platform’s unlimited virtual private network (VPN) access across all devices. Since many other VPN vendors charge based on data usage, we find Avira’s uncapped offering to be a highly valuable perk.
We love Bitdefender squarely for its numerous packages that serve businesses at every stage of growth. The company excels whether you’re a one-person show that launched yesterday or you manage a decades-old organization across multiple continents.
Specifically, Bitdefender offers the traditional menu of basic antivirus packages targeting simple needs. However, the software vendor transcends junior-level limitations via its comprehensive endpoint protection suites that cover more than desktop computers and mobile devices, similar to AVG. These mid- and large-business solutions understandably mandate deeper pockets, though, with top-tier plans like the GravityZone Elite package commanding over $400 annually for only 5 devices.
But what about Bitdefender’s features steals our heart? The software title’s artificial intelligence-based approach certainly stands out. The platform uses machine learning to proactively detect irregular digital behavior, such as applications suspiciously transmitting data to third parties. Simply put, much like a loyal childhood friend, Bitdefender is able to instinctively determine when something is amiss, even in the absence of a clearly identified malware threat.
Panda Security, a division of Seattle-based WatchGuard, excels with its emphasis on artificial intelligence-powered automation and expert-guided cybersecurity features.
For example, the endpoint protection suite boasts its real-time Threat Hunting Service. This feature works to stop “living off the land” (LoTL) attacks, which involve manipulating a system’s native applications to benefit an attacker. Such threats are notoriously difficult to detect since they don’t involve suspicious external applications, making this a particularly valuable perk not commonly found in antivirus software.
While we love Panda Security’s thoughtful and time-saving bells and whistles, we’re not big fans of the platform’s opaque pricing that heavily relies on third-party retailers. This is a similar arrangement to Norton Endpoint, and it usually results in a frustrating, time-consuming price comparison endeavor involving many different vendors.
The antivirus suite’s ransomware protection is strikingly thoughtful and impressive. For example, Kaspersky automatically maintains backups of your most crucial files. This way, in the uncommon event a cyberattacker defeats the platform’s defenses and locks up your most critical data, you could whip out the backups and avoid paying a ransom.
The platform’s proactive initiatives extend further than just ransomware, though. We love Kaspersky’s Safe Money feature that analyzes a website's safety and authenticity, thwarting phishing scams from the get-go. Plus, the Password Manager perk securely stores your passwords and alerts you if a password is too weak or needs to be changed.
Meanwhile, the System Watcher function constantly scans for subtle computer vulnerabilities while allowing malicious changes to be easily reversed. These are just a few of Kaspersky’s thoughtful, proactive tools, making it a bountiful package for small businesses yearning for a digital security guard quietly standing watch 24/7/365.
With prices that soar to nearly $77 per device for top-tier endpoint coverage, ESET is not for budget-conscious businesses needing modest solutions. However, the platform undoubtedly packs a punch for organizations that crave superior, crème de la crème endpoint protection.
Perhaps most prominent is the software title’s complete disk encryption feature that protects virtually every piece of data under your command. This makes the platform locked and loaded to fight against ransomware threats that prey on unsecured files.
Meanwhile, day-to-day users can enjoy the suite’s protection that blocks spam and phishing emails, encrypts video conference calls, and provides customizable alerts, just to name a few perks.
Administrators will also squeal with glee at the software package’s compelling data visualization that makes it easy to grasp crucial information quickly. And for people who consider social proof when making purchasing decisions, it’s comforting to know that global brands like Mitsubishi, Allianz, and Canon have adopted ESET across their organizations.
Antivirus software FAQ
Absolutely. While many computer operating systems, such as Mac OS and Windows, have built-in defenses against viruses and other malware, threats are constantly evolving. The best antivirus software focuses exclusively on staying one step ahead of this perpetual shape-shifting, beyond what operating systems are usually capable of on their own. What’s more, small businesses are particularly desirable targets because cybercriminals think they often lack the sophisticated and expensive digital defenses that large corporations have.
It’s worth paying a premium for antivirus software if your business manages multiple devices and highly sensitive data, such as payroll information and patented technologies. That’s because the free subscriptions that many vendors offer tend to be severely limited in coverage and usually only protect one device. This would leave most of your business vulnerable, making such zero-cost plans unrealistic.
You'll first want to take inventory of the devices you'll need to be covered. This includes point-of-sale terminals, desktop computers, mobile phones, and data-hosting servers, among other electronic gadgets under your control.
If your business manages a complex web of devices that extend beyond traditional desktop PCs and mobile phones, you’ll need an advanced solution called “endpoint protection.” This genre of antivirus software holistically protects all of your organization’s digital infrastructure, including cloud servers, kiosks, and other “endpoints.”
Once you’ve rounded up your specific devices, you can start price shopping and identifying which software vendors cover your particular needs. In particular, look for proactive perks, such as protection against phishing scams, along with defenses against ransomware and trojan horses—two of the biggest threats against small businesses
Recap: What is the best antivirus software?
We focused on an antivirus software title’s suitability for small-business users, emphasizing multiple device discounts and proactive threat defenses.
Avast wins our heart for its overall value and easy-to-understand user interface. But, Norton and Avira also score points for their comparable user-friendliness that makes cybersecurity a breeze. Businesses needing powerful and complex anti-malware protection should flock to Symantec Endpoint and Bitdefender for their rich, advanced features. Meanwhile, Mac OS users would enjoy the warm welcome that Intego provides Apple customers.