Security for everyone - Reviewing Avira Internet Security Suite 2016

Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Avira is a German IT security company that is very well known for its free antivirus software. In fact, Avira is so popular that, back in 2012, they had over 100 million customers and were ranked to be the sixth largest antivirus vendor in the world. That was quite an achievement and the company kept on maintaining its popularity in the following years. Free antivirus is not their only product, as they also offer paid security solutions that include all the tools you need in order to efficiently protect your personal computer. The latest, most complete security solution they offer to home users is called Avira Internet Security Suite 2016. This is what we have learned in a couple of days of testing:

First impressions

In order to use Avira Internet Security Suite on your computer, you must first download it. What you’ll get is a small 4.42 MB executable file called avira_en_issudl_xxxx__ws.exe. One thing that we liked when we downloaded this installer was the fact that, even if we chose to get a trial version of Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 , we did not have to provide any personal information.

Where To Buy

The installation process was simple and easy to go through and Avira appears to have embraced the “one click install” approach too, just like many other security vendors. While the security suite was installing itself, we thought it would be a good idea for us to monitor how much data it downloads from Avira’s servers. We measured approximately 260 MB, which is a bit more than other security products that we’ve reviewed.

During the installation, you will see Avira trying to convince you to also install a free tool called Avira SafeSearch Plus which, as you will later see in this review, also bears the name of Avira Browser Safety. Unfortunately, having two names is not the only thing that’s shady about this web browser extension. Although this tool promises to secure your web searches, we don’t recommend that you install it. The truth is that Avira SafeSearch Plus is a browser add-on that adds bloatware to your web browser. As we were curious to see exactly what happens when you install Avira SafeSearch Plus we did a bit of research and we found out that, in order to provide you with so-called secure web searches, Avira teamed up with Ask.com, a service with a pretty bad reputation. If you are curious to see what Avira says about this partnership, check their Privacy Policy. It’s written black on white that The search functions Avira provides are provided by APN, LLC (Ask.com). [...] Ask.com determines your IP address, the source of your search, your browser and platform type and your language settings.” and “Ask.com can forward this information to third-party content providers and sponsored links.”. So yes, we really don’t like this being installed by a security product and we recommend that you avoid installing Avira SafeSearch Plus.

When the installation is done, Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 will let you know and you can proceed to opening it.

The user interface offered by Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 is old school, but the good thing is that it seems you can see quite a lot of details just from one glimpse at it, as you can see in the screenshot below.

We’d like to mention that there’s no need for rebooting your computer, as Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 immediately starts protecting you. And after seeing that, we also wanted to check whether this security suite automatically updates its virus definitions. We were pleased to find that they were already up to date and no further downloads were necessary. This also means that you will get the best protection Avira can offer, right from the start.

Downloading and installing Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 is easy and straightforward. All it takes is a few clicks and the security suite is installed on your computer. We like that and we also like the fact that Avira asks for no personal information in order for you to install their product. We also appreciate that the security suite installs itself with its latest virus definitions and you don’t have to manually update it. However, we don’t like it when a security product tries to convince us to install additional tools that have little to do with security. Especially when recommending that users install products like the browser extensions from the ill reputed Ask.com.

Integration with Windows 8.1 & modern apps

Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 disables Windows Defender during its installation. It’s a good thing because having two antivirus applications running simultaneously can often lead to unexpected conflicts and performance issues. However, we didn’t see the Windows Firewall being disabled by Avira and, at first, we were quite wary of this. Multiple firewall solutions running at the same time can also be bad for your computer. When we looked closer, however, we found that Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 doesn’t include a proprietary firewall and, instead, relies on the Windows Firewall.

Then we checked whether Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 is well integrated with Windows 8.1 in terms of network features. As this security product relies on the Windows Firewall , it is self-evident that it works nicely with Windows 8.1. Everything works as it should: we could create and join Homegroups , we could access network shares and stream media files over the network and we had no problems in downloading, installing or using modern apps from the Windows Store. Another direct consequence of Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 using the Windows Firewall is the fact that you will always have the appropriate firewall settings applied for both Public and Private networks.

We also checked how Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 protects you while you browse websites. The good news is that this security product scans all the HTTP traffic going on your computer and that means you will be protected against online threats like webpages distributing malware or phishing attempts, regardless of the web browser you use.

Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 also offers a browser extension called Browser Safety , designed to protect you while online. This extension is available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. We don’t recommend that you use this extension, as you don’t really need it. You already have the Web Protection module from Avira that scans your HTTP traffic automatically. Besides being somewhat redundant, the Browser Safety extension also adds a feature called Avira Price Comparison that is nothing more than just an advertising tool through which Avira recommends various deals for the products you search online. Most probably they make a commission from your purchases.

We used Task Manager to monitor how much RAM memory is needed by Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 in order to run its processes. When nothing special happens on your computer, this security suite uses about 86 MB of memory. However, when you run an antivirus scan or when malware is detected, the amount of RAM required by Avira grows up to and beyond 290 MB. This is quite a lot but it shouldn’t be a problem on any modern day computer.

Then, we checked how much Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 affects the boot timing of our test computer. To do that, we used BootRacer and we measured that this security suite added 2 seconds to our test system’s boot timings. That’s 5% more time added to our test system’s original boot timing. Obviously, this is not a lot.

Next, we used PCMark 8 in order to measure Avira’s impact on our computer’s overall performance. We used the Home conventional tests and we saw a decrease in performance of 9.8 percent, which is quite significant.

Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 doesn’t include any proprietary firewall module. Instead, it relies on the Windows Firewall. Because of that, it is well integrated with Windows 8.1 and modern apps. On the negative side, Avira tries to monetize its paying customers by including marketing tools like Avira Browser Safety, which has little to do with offering a secure computing experience. In terms of overall computer performance, we also found that Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 is a bit more hungry for computing resources than other security products we have reviewed.

Ease of use & configuration

Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 is rather peculiar when it comes to the user interface. In fact, you could say that this security product includes two user interfaces. You get the Avira Launcher - a launcher that you will find in your system tray. This part of the user interface lets you know in an instant if you are well protected, it gives you a glimpse of the status of each protection module and it also lets you install new protection modules.

When you install Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 , you only get two modules: Antivirus Pro and System Speedup. You can also add Browser Safety, Anti-Theft and Identity Safeguard. About Browser Safety we have already shared that you should not install it. Anti-Theft and Identity Safeguard are two optional tools that we’ll analyze a bit in the Extra features section of this review.

The interesting part is that the Antivirus Pro module is, in fact, the whole security suite. Antivirus Pro is what you need to launch if you want to access not only the available antivirus actions and settings, but also things like the firewall, the web protection or the reports. Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 is not organized in an intuitive way and, at first sight, even professionals will encounter some moments of confusion.

This user interface of the Avira Antivirus Pro module looks very dated. As you can see in the screenshot below, Avira’s main console is actually a classic window that’s split in two. On the left you get a menu with the main modules and features offered by the security suite, while on the right you have access to the details, options and settings of the currently selected module.

The main modules from the left menu are organized by categories which include Status (shows quick information about the state of the security suite and whether your computer is protected or not), PC Protection (where you have access to the antivirus System Scanner and Real-Time Protection ), Internet Protection (gives you access to FireWall, Web Protection and Mail Protection ), Mobile Protection (includes Android Security ) and Administration (gives you quick access to Quarantine, Scheduler, Reports and Events ).

As we mentioned, the panel from the right side of the window shows various actions, features and options, depending on which module you selected in the left menu. With one exception - the Status section - which includes a few switches for enabling or disabling the main modules, all the other features and options ar not touch friendly and are displayed in a small font that’s quite hard to read. In our opinion, Avira should invest some effort into modernising its user interface.

A positive aspect of Avira’s user interface is that it offers an easily identifiable Configuration button for each module, so that you get access to advanced settings for that module. Even though it is not user friendly, Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 lets you do everything you’d expect from a full fledged security product. You can customize the antivirus scans, you can create custom scan profiles, see the files in the Quarantine , schedule tasks and so on.

We also liked the fact that it’s enough to hover the mouse on most of the advanced settings to see brief information about what they do. This helps you understand what the settings do, without having to open the help and documentation files.

Talking about help and documentation, Avira includes offline Help files which is a good thing. You won’t need Internet access in order to read Avira’s documentation. Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 also offers easy access to online documentation and email and phone support for its paying customers.

In terms of reports, Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 offers only text logs and no visual statistics whatsoever. The text logs are quite detailed and you can extract a lot of useful information from them, but they are not something a beginner would want to use.

From an user interaction point of view, we must note that, with the exception of the alerts shown when malware was detected, Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 was very quiet the whole time we used it. We saw no other kinds of notifications, which is good.

Avira Internet Security Suite 2016 is not what you’d call a user friendly security product. We find it interesting that Avira tried to somehow split its user interface and adopt a modular design by giving us a separate launcher and a separate window for managing the security modules included in the suite. This approach is not necessarily great because, if you want to configure in detail how this suite works, you still will have to deal with the not-so-user-friendly part of the user interface. Why not modernize everything?