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Karen Cohen

By: Karen Cohen on June 24, 2023

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What Is Antivirus Software? Why Is It Important For Businesses?

Cybersecurity | IT Support

Cybersecurity tools are often lumped together. But what exactly is antivirus software is, and how does it work? Not sure? This article is for you!

Antivirus is often listed alongside anti-spam and anti-malware as critical elements of a comprehensive endpoint protection solution. But many business leaders don’t know what each type of software does and how they work together to keep data safe.  

Just as comprehensive medical care keeps us healthy, comprehensive endpoint solutions keep data and networks safe.

At Kelser, we include a full suite of endpoint protection solutions as part of our comprehensive managed IT support services.

While it’s important to have an intimate knowledge of each part of endpoint detection solutions, we are also committed to providing straightforward explanations of technical products so that business leaders can make informed IT decisions.  

This article will provide a simple yet comprehensive explanation of antivirus software, explain in easy-to-understand language what it does, and explore how it differs from anti-spam and anti-malware. I’ll also explain what could happen if you don’t use it, and how much it costs.

What Is Antivirus Software? 

Antivirus software is a cybersecurity tool that detects and removes known viruses and malicious software from your device, helping prevent and contain cyber attacks.

How Does Antivirus Software Work? 

Antivirus software scans files and programs looking for known viruses. It typically operates in the background providing real-time protection for your data. Antivirus tools are grouped into three categories based on the way they detect viruses: 

1. Signature 

Some antivirus software identifies a virus by its signature, comparing the attributes of a file or program to a huge database of unique identifiers (algorithm or hash) specific to a particular known virus. 

2. Behavior

This method analyzes the way a file or program behaves rather than the actual code it contains, so behavior-based antivirus tools can identify new threats that haven’t been seen before. 

3. Machine Learning

The latest type of antivirus software uses machine learning to analyze huge datasets and apply mathematical algorithms that make it possible to quickly detect malicious patterns and characteristics, making it possible to predict whether a file is safe or harmful.

It has the capacity to adapt to recognize emerging threats.

Antivirus software is one of the cheapest and most basic investments you can make in your IT infrastructure. It can monitor what’s going on in any computer hardware, from laptops to desktops to servers. And the good news is that antivirus software now comes standard with most operating systems, so all you need to do is turn it on. 

Any hardware that can run antivirus software should have it installed and running.

Are There Ever Times When Antivirus Software Might Not Be A Good Option?

The only time it might not be possible to run antivirus software is if you use a high-performance computing system that runs very complicated, powerful algorithms. The antivirus would choke up too many resources from the system and make it impossible to do the quality work required. 

How Is Antivirus Software Different From Anti-Spam and Anti-Malware?

Antivirus software is one part of a multi-layered endpoint protection solution. It works together with anti-spam and anti-malware to provide comprehensive coverage.

Antivirus programs are typically best at detecting classic online threats like worms, trojans and viruses. 

Anti-spam software checks your emails against industry-standard and your specifically defined criteria for known spam and virus controls.

Anti-malware can recognize new (and emerging) cyber threats that can penetrate standard antivirus software. 

It provides analytic and monitoring tools that identify suspicious activities before they affect your infrastructure. It defends before, contains during, and helps remediate after an incident. It constantly tracks programs allowing you to see what’s running where across your endpoints. 

Related article: Top 10 Cybersecurity Tools To Protect Business Data

Some software applications perform all three functions, while others may offer one or two tools.

What Could Happen If I Don’t Use Antivirus Software?

Whenever you use a smartphone or a computer to connect to the internet, your device can be affected by viruses. Antivirus software provides another layer of protection to keep your device, data, and software safe. 

Without antivirus software all it would take is for one person on your network to click on a malicious link, and a virus could infect your network, erase data from your hard drives, and propagate out via the internet to your customers and other internal and external company contacts. 

In addition to antivirus software, one of the other most effective (and most often overlooked) ways to guard against phishing attempts is by providing cybersecurity awareness training for your employees. 

Related article: Why Is It Important To Provide Security Awareness Training For Employees?

How Much Does Antivirus Software Cost? 

Antivirus software is available at all price points. Some software developers offer free options, while others sell for $30-40 annually. 

The highest-priced options could run you around $100 per year but provide more comprehensive protection and extra features than free and less expensive options. 

The price varies depending on the coverage and the number of devices you need to protect.

What’s The Bottom Line?

After reading this article, you have a full understanding of antivirus software. You understand what it is, how it works, how it differs from anti-spam and anti-malware software. 

We’ve discussed what can happen if you don’t use it and how much antivirus software costs.  

The bottom line is that antivirus software is one tool to help keep your IT infrastructure safe, but it doesn’t protect your data from every cyber threat. In fact, no single security tool can keep your data and infrastructure 100% secure. 

So, just as each additional layer of security at your home (including locks, alarm systems, and electronic gates) provides another deterrent for criminals, every layer of security you put in place provides more protection to keep your network and data safe. 

If you find yourself wondering whether your organization’s security tools are up to the latest cyber threats, click the link below for a free checklist you can use to:.  

✔️Understand where your organization's cybersecurity policy needs improving
✔️Learn five best-practices and actions you can take to keep your organization's data secure
✔️Help ensure your organization follows the latest cybersecurity best practices

Get your free cybersecurity checklist now, so you can take action against the latest cybersecurity threats and keep your business secure.

Get Your Cybersecurity Checklist

If your internal IT organization struggles to stay on top of emerging cyber threats (or maybe you have no IT staff,) you may be considering working with an external IT provider.

Read this article to learn 6 hidden external IT support costs to anticipate and explore several options to ensure that you get and IT provider that is the right fit for your business.  

Related article: Block Hours Vs. Managed IT Support: The Pros & Cons

External IT support is not cheap. We get it. As informed consumers ourselves, we know that the first step we take when evaluating our options for a significant purchase is to search the internet. It’s important to compare your IT support options so that you don’t end up in a partnership that doesn’t work for you. 

We are so committed to this advice that we’ve done some of the legwork for you. In our Learning Center, we’ve published several articles comparing our offering to that of our competitors (based on publicly available information from our respective websites). Why? Because we like to be 100 percent transparent and we want to be part of successful partnerships.

In the spirit of transparency, learn how Charles IT and Kelser stack up. Or, check out Kelser’s Learning Center for more comparison (and other easy-to-understand) articles that answer your IT questions. 

Prefer to talk to a human? (We do, too!) Click the link below and we’ll schedule a 15-minute call to discuss your IT pain points and see if we might be a good fit to work together. 

Talk with a Human

About Karen Cohen

Karen brings unending curiosity to her role as Kelser's Content Manager. If you have a question, she wants to know the answer.

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