Symantec recently released the beta version of its new security suite: Norton 360. The question is whether the 360 part of the name refers to what Symantec would have you believe: “Norton gives you a full circle of protection.” Or could it refer to Symantec doing a 360 and being right back where it started with a bloated, buggy, and overpriced product?
When I covered the Norton AntiVirus 2006 release last year, the thread turned into a place for consumers to vent on how the product caused more problems than fixes. Some were even wishing for a class-action lawsuit. Well, I’ve been playing with the latest iteration for a few days now to see which implication of using the term 360 is true. Here’s what I found:
The installation process feels about the same. The program first asked me to remove AVG (my current anti-virus) and Spybot (my current anti-spyware) but did allow for the option of skipping through to the next screen. Norton 360 also wanted me to create an account online, enter a product key, and perform a quick scan, etc. (click to enlarge picture below to see the new interface). All but the product key could be avoided.
Then Live Update needed to run for the software to get the most current virus definitions, followed by a restart of the computer (when will Symantec make software than doesn’t require a restart after an update?). The only change other than a slightly different look: the quick scan actually seemed quite snappy for my 150 gigabyte hard drive that’s mostly full.
Once I was through the infamous Norton install process, I made it to a dashboard like splash screen which has four circles with green checkboxes to illustrate that I’m protected. Of course, they weren’t all green to start (see picture below). I had a yellow warning and a red warning, one for weak passwords and another for not having configured my backup yet. Incidentally, these are two new features most notably different than previous Norton offerings.
The reason I had weak passwords was because I didn’t have any for the Windows logon I was using (see picture below for how Norton handles it). So I had to manually go into the settings to tell Norton not to worry about my weak passwords. Honestly, I’m not sure if this new feature is all that great. I mean, reminding me to have a password for my login is nice, I suppose, even if it’s not at the top of the list when I think of security for a home computer.
The Norton backup feature is only good for 150 megabytes of online storage during the beta period, though this is what Symantec says about the future release: “When released Norton 360 will include 2GB of online storage for no extra cost.” This is disappointing. The interface looks fine enough (click to enlarge the two pictures below), but 2 gigs? Mozy already offers that much backup space for free while Carbonite offers unlimited space for backups for only $5 per month. The point is that Symantec doesn’t look all that impressive when throwing in only the bare minimum on a new feature that others have already done well.
Another newish feature: a big green anti-phishing toolbar in Internet Explorer (see below). I’m sure it probably does a fine job, but it’s big, ugly, and obtrusive, not to mention the fact that it’s taking care of a problem already addressed by most recent browsers themselves. Also, it was kind of annoying when Norton automatically deleted my browsing history upon installation. So it’s in my face when it doesn’t need to be and does things automatically that I’d rather have the choice of doing myself.
In short, this is still very much the Norton product we’ve known and are used to. The interface seems intuitive and the protection is probably fine. But I think I’ll probably end up using individual products that feel superior to Symantec’s latest attempt at gluing together not-as-impressive individual components in the hopes of the “full circle of protection” message overshadowing any individual product deficiencies.