Sophos Anti-Virus 3.7 review: Sophos Anti-Virus 3.7

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Good management tools for networked environments; phone support at no additional cost.

The Bad Expensive annual renewal fee; no integrated firewall; no single-user version.

The Bottom Line Sophos is a well-designed and worth-the-price antivirus program best suited for networked PCs, not standalone users.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Service and support 8.0
  • Setup and interface 7.0

Review summary

Sophos Anti-Virus makes no bones about its corporate orientation; you couldn't buy a single-user copy even if you wanted to. Its features also focus on corporate needs, including good management tools for networking environments and free phone support. But Sophos's pricing--a 10-user license is roughly $60 per client, for instance--is slightly higher than that of most high-end, standalone antivirus programs, such as McAfee VirusScan 7.0 and Trend Micro's PC-cillin 2003. Its annual renewal fee is high, too: $600 for a 10-year license, while Norton and McAfee charge only $10 per user. In addition, the program lacks an integrated firewall (included with the more-affordable competition). Considering the trade-offs, Sophos is still worth considering for small-business IT managers because of its network tools.

Sophos Anti-Virus installed quickly and painlessly from its CD-ROM. The setup screen provides far more information than those of most antivirus apps; the CD includes monthly installation notes and setup guides. It's nice to know where to turn for help should the installation turn ugly. In a corporate environment, updated individual desktop installations of Sophos are accomplished via the network server, so the program loads fully updated and ready to go.

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Sophos Anti-Virus's setup screen provides a lot of useful information.

Sophos's desktop interface is not quite as slick as Norton's, McAfee's, or PC-cillin's, but its simple, icon-and-menu design requires little or no training. For instance, the Go button starts a scan; Stop ends it. But the Configuration and Alert buttons really should really be combined, as both lead you to roughly the same program settings.

Integrated into the main interface is the Sophos scheduler, making it easier than in some antivirus products we've seen to schedule scans. Simply click the Scheduled tab, then the Add button, and proceed from there. Sophos's interface shows a scan's progress, giving you a clear idea of how long a virus checkup will take.

Many antivirus programs prod the user to check for Web updates, or they provide frequent pop-up reports of their actions. Sophos Anti-Virus interacts rarely, if ever, with the end user, which is how most IT departments like it. In fact, we often forgot about the program until it performed a scheduled scan and our system slowed slightly.

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Sophos Anti-Virus shows the progress of a scan while it's running.

By default, Sophos Anti-Virus disinfects macro viruses, boot-sector viruses, and some executable viruses. Its memory-resident InterCheck utility prevents users from accessing infected files, but the program lacks a quarantine file to safely remove infected files from active use. If the program cannot disinfect a file, Sophos recommends that it either be manually disinfected (with details on individual viruses available on Sophos's Web site) or overwritten ("shredded"). The manual disinfection/shredding process is a bit more work than is required from other antivirus programs, however.

Sophos also lacks what we consider essential features, including a firewall to prevent authorized system attacks and inbound/outbound e-mail scanning. Sophos has stated no interest in developing its own firewall product. The inbound/outbound e-mail scanning, however, is available as an option.

To measure Sophos Anti-Virus's impact on system performance, CNET Labs used BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. The Internet-content-creation portion of SysMark measures a desktop's performance running off-the-shelf applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder, and Macromedia Dreamweaver. (We did not run the Office Productivity portion of the benchmark because it incorporates McAfee VirusScan 5.13.)

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