From the November 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

Computer viruses have struck fear in the hearts of many a computer user. As business owners rely more heavily on computers to help them run their businesses, they know the near hysteria that occurs when a computer virus is unleashed onto the hard drives of unsuspecting employees.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Why wait until disaster has struck to start worrying about computer viruses? Instead, outfit your PC with an antivirus program that can seek and destroy common viruses.

This column looks at three popular programs, including Symantec's Norton AntiVirus 4.0, Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Deluxe and Quarterdeck's ViruSweep Extra Strength, all for Windows-based machines.

Virus Primer

Don't be ashamed if you don't know what a computer virus is. Intuitively, we all know that just as viruses aren't good for the human body, they also must not be good for a computer. But beyond that, what exactly is a computer virus?

Basically, viruses are computer programs that "infect" other programs by modifying them. Viruses infiltrate your system's programs, attempting to go undetected. Some viruses contain a set of instructions designed to disrupt normal computing processes by triggering messages or overwriting files.

Viruses fall into three categories: boot sector, program and macro viruses. Boot sector viruses attach themselves to floppy disks, then copy themselves onto the boot sector of your hard drive when you reboot your system. Boot sector viruses are spread from infected disks--you can't get one from sharing files or executing programs. Program viruses, on the other hand, attach themselves to executable files associated with other programs. More common than boot sector viruses, program viruses hook on to EXE or COM files, but they can infect any file your computer runs when launching a program (including SYS, DLL and so on). Macro viruses are perhaps the most contagious of the viruses; they're technically program viruses. These viruses affect the templates used to create documents or spreadsheets. Once a template is infected, every document or spreadsheet opened with the infected program will also be corrupted. These viruses are common to office or suite applications, so they're fairly widespread.

All three programs reviewed here will help ensure your computer doesn't become susceptible to these viruses.

The Trusted Name

Whatever operating system you run, Symantec's Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 4.0 can help. The PC-based version ships with support for Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 3.1 and DOS. (The Windows 98 upgrade is easily downloaded.) There's also Norton AntiVirus 5.0 for Macintosh.

This antivirus program is the most popular and perhaps the most trusted one out there. It's easy to install and simple to use. NAV protects against all possible entry points for viruses, including shared floppy disks, the Internet, e-mail attachments and networks. Every action NAV performs is done in the background, requiring little, if any, user input, which makes this program an ideal solution for users who want protection without the headache of managing it.

Symantec is particularly proud of NAV's ability to detect unknown and unidentified viruses. Known viruses, those that have been preanalyzed by virus researchers, are much easier to detect than unknown or new viruses. Symantec's Bloodhound technology analyzes programs and enables users to repair infected files immediately.

Symantec also offers LiveUpdates to keep NAV 4.0 current with the latest virus definitions. LiveUpdates are free for one year (they cost $3.95 per year after that) and can be automatically delivered via e-mail.

Sweep It Away

Quarterdeck's ViruSweep Extra Strength also offers its own VirusGuard technology for automatically protecting computers from both known and unknown viruses; it, too, blocks dangerous viruslike activities.

This program comes with eSafe Protect, an antivandal software that blocks destructive online activities. Users can monitor the threat to their system with the Protect gauge. As your system performs normal online activities, such as accessing e-mail, visiting Web sites or downloading files, a gauge indicates if it is a low- or high-threat action--an interesting, although somewhat annoying, feature.

This program caused no problems during installation and, like Symantec's NAV, didn't detect any viruses on my system. Users of ViruSweep obtain updates from TuneUp.com (http://www.tuneup.com), another Quarterdeck product. Here, computer users can pay for onetime virus detection and removal, and find updates for software and hardware drivers and browser plug-ins. There are also FAQs on all types of products, bug alerts, and a Tech Directory that lists information on more than 2,900 PC companies, including tech support phone numbers. ViruSweep is available only for Windows 95 and 98.

The Doctor Is In

Alhough Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Deluxe offers a robust set of features, my opinion of the program was tainted by the fact that upon installation, it completely froze my Windows 95 system. Luckily, the emergency boot disk (a preconfigured floppy disk) was handy, enabling me to reboot the system from the floppy drive. Then I used old DOS commands to rectify the situation.

It should be noted that while Quarterdeck's ViruSweep recommends that users create an emergency boot disk (something this reviewer lazily ignored), only Symantec and Dr Solomon's products ship with the floppy disk ready to go right out of the box.

Once Dr Solomon was up and running, it was simple to maneuver with an easy-to-follow interface. The program also enables automatic background detection of viruses and includes NetGuard, a technology designed to protect your machine from hostile Internet downloads. NetGuard automatically scans all Internet downloads, e-mails, attachments, news group messages and so on.

Dr Solomon is incredibly robust, with the ability to detect new and unknown viruses with its Advanced Heuristic Analysis and Advanced Macro Heuristic Analysis. Virus updates are free for one year, and the program runs on Windows 95, 98 and NT systems right out of the box.

Protect Yourself

The Internet is causing an increase in the spread of computer viruses, so if you haven't invested in an antivirus program yet, you should. All three of these packages offer about the same safety level. Norton AntiVirus is great for users who don't want to think about virus protection but like to know it's there if they need it. Additionally, NAV's support for a variety of operating systems makes it a worthwhile choice for users running multiple systems. Whichever antivirus program you choose, however, you can be sure you'll be protecting yourself from huge headaches down the road.

New and Notable Software

  • Macro Express 98: Insight Software Solutions' Macro Express 98 saves you time by automating repetitive computer tasks. For example, Macro Express can be used to automate e-mail responses, instantly fill out forms on the Web, launch Web sites and start programs. This program also gives you helpful options for creating and executing your macros. You can choose to record your tasks from start to finish or use a scripting editor. To play your macros, assign a hot key or text string to each one, or run the macro on a specific schedule.

Macro Express 98 runs under Windows systems and costs about $35. For more information, call (801) 295-1890 or visit http://www.macros.com

Project Office: Project management is something most of us would rather ignore, but when your organization gets too large to easily manage your projects, you'll want project management software.

Pacific Edge Software's Project Office promises to alleviate the headaches caused by traditional, overly complicated programs. Through its intuitive, user-friendly interface, Project Office enables even the most inexperienced users to enter project information.

The five-user Starter Pack costs $4,900. For more information, call (425) 990-6210, ext. 102, or visit http://www.projectoffice.com

  • Business Insight 5.0: If you're not quite sure how to market your company, you might want to check out Business Resource Software's Business Insight 5.0. This software is a tool for creating and analyzing marketing strategies. Business Insight uses information you provide to generate analyses specific to your company. Each analysis explains how it's affected by factors unique to your market and offering.

Business Insight promises to enable you to understand the interactions between your company, competitors, prospects and customers. The program runs under Windows and costs $795. Call (800) 423-1228 or visit http://www.brs-inc.com