What's a unified antivirus engine?
Today's Internet threats come in all flavors including computer viruses, phishing attacks, spam, spyware, adware, worms, and Trojans. Many of these threats are blending. For example, spam messages may also contain malicious codes or point you to a malicious website.
Because of the evolving nature of Internet threats, many antivirus software developers are moving toward unified antivirus engines. These unified engines blend the various technologies used to combat each type of threat into a single tool. Instead of buying and installing separate antivirus and antispyware applications, you can now buy Internet security software powered by a unified antivirus engine. One application can now handle viruses, spyware, spam, phishing attacks, and more.
The advantages of using a product powered by a unified antivirus engine are numerous. Among the most obvious advantages are that you only have one application to manage, one set of database definitions to download, and less potential for conflict between different security applications. In addition, depending on the product you select, a bundled security solution is often less expensive than buying separate antivirus, anti-spam, antispyware, and other tools.
Less obvious advantages include decreased memory requirements and smaller update sizes compared to multiple update packages. When you have multiple applications that must launch at start up and remain running all the time, your system's performance suffers because each running application takes up its fair share of resources including memory. By having fewer applications running, your system will have more resources available and perform better.
However, not all unified antivirus solutions are created equal. It's important to evaluate these security suites carefully just as you would with each individual component. How often is the database containing all of the definitions updated? How extensive is this database? How easy is the software to use? Are the controls customizable? Does the software have the features you need?
I have two favorite products: ParetoLogic AntiVirus Plus and Trend Micro PC-cillin Internet Security. Because I don't need two similar applications, I currently use the Trend Micro product. Not because it's any better, it simply has a few additional features that are currently important to me including a firewall, network controls, wireless controls, and home network protection. If you don't need these additional features, the ParetoLogic product is an excellent choice - why pay for features you don't need?
Unified antivirus engines don't necessarily compromise results for the sake of convenience. Most of the major software developers have blended their existing products into a "super engine" that can handle it all. For example, you'll get the same antivirus technology and database definitions with a unified antivirus product as if you had purchased the standalone antivirus product. You also get the added protection of spyware and malware protection.
In addition to the ParetoLogic and Trend Micro all-in-one security solutions, other leading contenders using a unified approach include:
- McAfee Internet Security Suite
- Microsoft OneCare
- Norton Internet Security
- Kaspersky Internet Security
- BitDefender Total Security
- Panda Internet Security