Author Archives: George Anderson

5 Key Benchmarks for Choosing Efficient Endpoint Security

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

First and foremost, endpoint protection must be effective. Short of that, MSPs won’t succeed in protecting their clients and, more than likely, won’t remain in business for very long. But beyond the general ability to stop threats and protect users, which characteristics of an endpoint solution best set its administrators for success?

Get the 2019 PassMark Report: See how 9 endpoint protection products perform against 15 efficiency benchmarks.

Consider the world of the MSP: margins can be thin, competition tight, and time quite literally money. Any additional time spent managing endpoint security, beyond installing and overseeing it, is time not spent on other key business areas. Performance issues stemming from excess CPU or memory usage can invite added support tickets, which require more time and attention from MSPs. 

So, even when an endpoint solution is effective the majority of the time (a tall order in its own right), other factors can still raise the total cost of ownership for MSPs. Here are some metrics to consider when evaluating endpoint solutions, and how they can contribute to the overall health of a business. 

1. Installation Time

We’ve written recently about the trauma “rip and replace” can cause MSPs. It often means significant after-hours work uninstalling and reinstalling one endpoint solution in favor of another. While MSPs can’t do much about the uninstall time of the product they’ve chosen to abandon, shopping around for a replacement with a speedy install time will drastically reduce the time it takes to make the switch. 

Quick installs often also make a good impression on clients, too, who are likely having their first experience with the new software. Finally, it helps if the endpoint solution doesn’t conflict with other AVs.  

2. Installation Size

Few things are more annoying to users and admins than bulky, cumbersome endpoint protection, even when it’s effective. But cybersecurity is an arms race, and new threats often require new features and capabilities. 

So if an endpoint solution is still storing known-bad signatures on the device itself, this can quickly lead to bloated agent with an adverse effect on overall device performance. Cloud-based solutions, on the other hand, tend to be lighter on the device and less noticeable to users.

3. CPU Usage During a Scan

Many of us will remember the early days of antivirus scans when considering this stat. Pioneering AVs tended to render their host devices nearly useless when scanning for viruses and, unfortunately, some are still close to doing so today. 

Some endpoint solutions are able to scan for viruses silently in the background, while others commandeer almost 100 percent of a device’s CPU to hunt for viruses. This can lead to excruciatingly slow performance and even to devices overheating. With such high CPU demand, scans must often be scheduled for off-hours to limit the productivity hit they induce. 

4. Memory Usage During a Scheduled Scan 

Similar to CPU use during a scan, RAM use during a scheduled scan can have a significant effect on device performance, which in turn has a bearing on client satisfaction. Again older, so-called legacy antiviruses will hog significantly more RAM during a scheduled scan than their next-gen predecessors. 

While under 100 MB is generally a low amount of RAM for a scheduled scan, some solutions on the market today can require over 700 MB to perform the function. To keep memory use from quickly becoming an issue on the endpoints you manage, ensure your chosen AV falls on the low end of the RAM use spectrum. 

5. Browse Time

So many of today’s threats target your clients by way of their internet browsers. So it’s essential that endpoint security solutions are able to spot viruses and other malware before it’s downloaded from the web. This can lead to slower browsing and frustrate users into logging support tickets. It’s typically measured as an average of the time a web browser loads a given site, with variables like network connection speed controlled for. 

Effectiveness is essential, but it’s far from the only relevant metric when evaluating new endpoint security. Consider all the above factors to ensure you and your clients get the highest possible level of satisfaction from your chosen solution.

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Why MSPs Should Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Security

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

“Antivirus programs use techniques to stop viruses that are very “virus-like” in and of themselves, and in most cases if you try to run two antivirus programs, or full security suites, each believes the other is malicious and they then engage in a battle to the death (of system usability, anyway).”

“…running 2 AV’s will most likely cause conflicts and slowness as they will scan each other’s malware signature database. So it’s not recommended.”

The above quotes come from top answers on a popular computer help site and community forum in response to a question about “Running Two AVs” simultaneously.

Seattle Times tech columnist Patrick Marshall has similarly warned his readers about the dangers of antivirus products conflicting on his own computers.

Click here to see 9 top endpoint protection competitors go head to head to see who’s most efficient.

Historically, these comments were spot-on, 100% correct in describing how competing AV solutions interacted on endpoints. Here’s why.

The (Traditional) Issues with Running Side-by-Side AV Programs

In pursuit of battling it out on your machine for security supremacy, AV solutions have traditionally had a tendency to cause serious performance issues.

This is because:

  • Each is convinced the other is an imposter. Antivirus programs tend to look a lot like viruses to other antivirus programs. The behaviors they engage in, like scanning files or scripts and exporting information about those data objects, can look a little shady to a program that’s sole purpose is to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
  • Each wants to be the anti-malware star. Ideally both AV programs installed on a machine would be up to the task of spotting a virus on a computer. And both would want to let the user know when they’d found something. So while one AV number one may isolate a threat, you can bet AV number two will still want to alert the user to its presence. This can lead to an endlessly annoying cycle of warnings, all-clears, and further warnings.
  • Both are hungry for your computer’s limited resources. Traditional antivirus products store static lists of known threats on each user’s machine so they can be checked against new data. This, plus the memory used for storing the endpoint agent, CPU for scheduled scans, on-demand scans, and even resource use during idling can add up to big demand. Multiply it by two and devices quickly become sluggish.

Putting the Problem Into Context

Those of you reading this may be thinking, But is all of this really a problem? Who wants to run duplicate endpoint security products anyway?

Consider a scenario, one in which you’re unhappy with your current AV solution. Maybe the management overhead is unreasonable and it’s keeping you from core business responsibilities. Then what?

“Rip and replace”—a phrase guaranteed to make many an MSP shudder—comes to mind. It suggests long evenings of after-hours work removing endpoint protection from device after device, exposing each of the machines under your care to a precarious period of no protection. For MSPs managing hundreds or thousands of endpoints, even significant performance issues can seem not worth the trouble.

Hence we’ve arrived at the problem with conflicting AV software. They lock MSPs into a no-win quagmire of poor performance on the one hand, and a potentially dangerous rip-and-replace operation on the other.

But by designing a no-conflict agent, these growing pains can be eased almost completely. MSPs unhappy with the performance of their current AV can install its replacement during working hours without breaking a sweat. A cloud-based malware prevention architecture and “next-gen” approach to mitigating attacks allows everyone to benefit from the ability to change and upgrade their endpoint security with minimal effort.

Simply wait for your new endpoint agent to be installed, uninstall its predecessor, and still be home in time for dinner.

Stop Wishing and Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Protection

Any modern endpoint protection worth its salt or designed with the user in mind has two key qualities that address this problem:

  1. It won’t conflict with other AV programs and
  2. It installs fast and painlessly.

After all, this is 2019 (and over 30 years since antivirus was invented) so you should expect as much. Considering the plethora of (often so-called) next-gen endpoint solutions out there, there’s just no reason to get locked into a bad relationship you can’t easily replace if something better comes along.

So when evaluating a new cybersecurity tool, ask whether it’s no conflict and how quickly it installs. You’ll be glad you did.

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