Note: Our best business antivirus round-up has been fully updated. This feature was first published in August 2013.
If you're looking to protect your company PCs from malware then you could just equip each one with your preferred free antivirus package. You'll get a reasonable level of protection, and it might well seem like you're keeping costs to a minimum.
Of course you'll have to manually install each copy. And train every user in its operation. And rely on them to let you know if there are any problems. And hope they won't turn off particular functions – or remove the whole package if they think it's getting in their way. The software may be free, but it could still have some major costs attached.
If you have plenty of systems to protect – 10 or more, say – it could make more sense to choose a business security solution. These can often be remotely installed over the network, and offer a central management console to monitor devices, and create fine-tuned security policies to enforce your preferred settings.
Best of all, the price per installation can sometimes be cheaper than even our recommended best home antivirus packages. So, what's on offer? We checked out eight of the best business antivirus tools around to find out.
Most offer discounts if you buy a two or three-year package, so where possible we ordered them by their 10 PC, two-year package prices to make things fair. You can of course choose whichever package suits your needs best when buying.
Avast Endpoint Protection Advanced
If Avast Endpoint Protection looks cheap, that's because it's the most basic business product the company offers – there's core antivirus, browsing protection and remote management for PCs only. That may well be enough, though, and even if it isn't, jumping up to the Endpoint Plus edition will get you a firewall, spam filter and server protection while still remaining good value.
The web-based management console covers the basics only: remote installations, updates, plus there's a scheduler for automatic scanning, real-time security alerts, and so on.
The antivirus protection you get is generally rated as good by independent testing, with AV-Comparatives placing Avast's engine sixth out of 19 contenders in its April 2016 Real-World Protection report. If value for money and simplicity is key, Avast Endpoint Protection could be a sensible choice.
Costs: £370/ $534/ AU$740, 10 PCs, 2 years
Symantec Endpoint Protection
Symantec Endpoint Protection's first benefit is the company's Insight file reputation technology, an effective way to detect and block even the very latest undiscovered threats.
Other layers of protection include antivirus, behaviour monitoring, intrusion protection, a firewall, and the 'Power Eraser' to remove stubborn threats and repair your system.
VM optimisation keeps performance high in virtual environments.
Symantec's security policy options are the real highlight. You can set application blacklists or whitelists, control file and Registry access, restrict and control access to external media, and more, then monitor systems and enforce policies from a central console.
Symantec Endpoint Protection isn't cheap, but if you need its high-end features and policy control options then it still looks like a good deal to us.
Costs: £578/ $467/ AU$770, 10 PCs, 2 years
Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security
If reliable protection is a top priority, Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security needs to be on your shortlist. Bitdefender products are loved by the independent testing labs, highly rated for malware detection, removal, performance and usability.
Most of the features work automatically – antimalware, firewall, web advisor, URL filtering – but you can also customise the product to control user actions. You're able to restrict access to certain websites and applications, block the transmission of sensitive information, remotely deploy the product to unprotected systems, and allow or deny users the ability to modify their security settings.
All this is managed from a central console where you can control and monitor remote users, create and apply custom security policies by user, location (the product adapts when users are outside the company), and more.
Costs: £340/ $490/ AU$850, 10 PCs, 2 years
Avira Antivirus for Endpoint
Avira Antivirus for Endpoint is the company's main small business product. It takes all the core features you'd expect – antivirus, baseline network protection, web filtering – and extends them with file server protection and optimisation, along with application whitelisting and blacklisting.
Avira's Online Essentials web console lets you manage your devices. This is simpler than some of the high-end competition, but that's not necessarily a disadvantage, and there's some useful functionality here: drive partition reports, licence management, remote deployment, and assorted mobile phone tools (antitheft, phone finder, and more).
Avira Antivirus for Endpoint doesn't have the longest of feature lists, but it's easy to use, and offers excellent protection, regularly matching competitors like Bitdefender and Kaspersky in AV-Comparative's Real World tests.
Costs: £411/ $600/ AU$830, 10 PCs, 2 years
Kaspersky Lab Small Office Security 4
Small Office Security 4 may be Kaspersky's baseline business product, but that doesn't mean it's short on features. There's antivirus, web filtering, antispam, banking protection, online backup, a password manager, file encryption and more.
The antivirus feature alone is worth a great deal, as Kaspersky regularly receives top ratings from independent testing labs for its detection and repair abilities.
There isn't quite the functionality you'll sometimes find elsewhere. You don't get application or device controls, there's no mobile device or application management (although you do get some Android tools), the remote management console is more limited than some of the competition, and there's no Linux build.
Kaspersky Lab Small Office Security is good value, though, and if you only need the remote management basics then it could serve you well.
Costs: £245/ $360/ AU$499, 10 PCs, 2 years
Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection
Webroot SecureAnywhere products stand out immediately for being incredibly lightweight: they're tiny (2MB disk space), install so quickly you'll barely notice (from 5 seconds), and consume the absolute minimum of system resources.
Scans are fast, too, and because just about everything is done in the cloud, there are no bulky updates or definitions to download – you're always up-to-date.
Other features include behaviour monitoring, an outbound firewall, along with identity and privacy protection. These don't always have the power and options of other tools, but they're implemented with real intelligence, and generally cope well with day-to-day tasks.
A cloud-based console enables tracking all your installations, and the package runs on just about any Windows or OS X system.
Factor in the price and Webroot looks very appealing to us, but it really is a product you need to try for yourself to understand the benefits. If you're interested, grab a copy of the trial and see what it can do for you.
Costs: £148.50/ $230/ $AU258.60, 10 PCs, 1 year
F-Secure Client Security Standard
F-Secure Client Security Standard is a popular endpoint protection tool, highly rated for protection by the independent testing labs.
Antivirus is just the start. There's also a firewall, intrusion detection, web filtering, online banking protection and device control.
If you need more, the Premium edition adds a software updater to scan for missing patches, and an option to restrict user's web access by category.
Whatever version you buy may be deployed and managed from a simple central console.
There are some issues here. In particular, F-Secure's engine is more likely than most to flag legitimate software as malicious. But overall F-Secure Client Security Standard offers good protection for a reasonable price, and it's certainly a product worth thinking about.
Costs: £411/ $600/ AU$830, 10 PCs, 2 years
Sophos Endpoint Protection Advanced 10.6
Sophos Endpoint Protection Advanced is a powerful tool which uses many technologies to keep you safe. It blocks dangerous URLs, and is capable of detecting and removing exploit code, analysing behaviour to uncover even the very newest threats, and identifying endpoint connections with malicious servers to find compromised systems.
The results can be impressive, particularly when facing zero-day threats. AV-Test's March/ April 2016 report found the Sophos engine blocked 100% of these attacks (the industry average is 97%).
There's a price to pay for this kind of safety. Sophos Endpoint Protection's background activities can noticeably reduce your PC's performance.
Fortunately, there are plenty of business-friendly features to compensate, including device and application control, DLP, and antispam and antimalware for Microsoft Exchange.
Costs: £480/ $690/ AU$955, 10 PCs, 2 years