Symantec tailors sharper small business security suite

Norton Small Business works on Windows, OS X and Android with limited features for iOS

Symantec's latest product, Norton Small Business, is perhaps the most well-rounded and ambitious offering the company has inserted into its product array for small companies.

The security company has been working for more than a year to revamp its product line as the company faces an ever-competitive security market.

Symantec has at least four products it says are suited for small businesses such as Norton 360 version 6.0, Norton AntiVirus 2012, Norton Internet Security 2012 and Symantec Protection Suite Small Business Edition. All are priced differently and have some overlapping features.

None of those products are being retired but will instead be joined by Norton Small Business, which has been geared to keep up with trends: mobile device security and protection for Apple desktop computers. It is aimed at companies with fewer than 20 employees that are unlikely to have a full-time IT specialist.

Symantec is also offering an ambitious guarantee to Norton Small Business buyers called "Virus Removal Assurance." It is offering free phone support as part of the guarantee, saying that if its support technicians can't remove the malicious software, customers can get their money back for the product.

Virus and spyware removal support is a feature of other Symantec products, such as the NortonLive Service, but costs $100 per call. The company claims it is able to remove malware in 99.9 percent of the time.

Symantec's guarantee assumes a customer actually knows they're infected and that malware has been found on the computer, an increasingly difficult task for consumer-grade security software suites.

For general antivirus protection, Norton Small Business uses Symantec's Insight and Sonar technologies, which are designed to spot unknown malicious files and programs and and classify them based on their reputation and behavior, a more effective method than relying on signatures.

Since mobile devices are increasingly being used by small businesses, the product has several security and device management features, mostly for Android.

The suite will scan Android applications to see if they're malicious. It also can block calls and text messages from certain numbers and will also scan SD memory cards.

For iOS iPads and iPhones, the features of Norton Small Business are limited due to Apple's tight control over its devices and what kind of applications users can install. Apple doesn't allow security applications to be installed on its mobile devices, so the security features offered for Android devices don't apply to Apple ones.

A product sheet claims that Norton Small Business can track a lost Apple device, but Apple has already incorporated that feature into iOS. It also has a "scream alarm" to locate a missing iOS device that may be within earshot.

The suite supports Apple desktop computers running Mac OS X version 10.7 and later.

Symantec has aimed manage of the software easy for small business owners across devices, said Anne O'Neill, Symantec's senior marketing director for North America.

An online management console shows what devices have Norton Small Business installed. Whoever is managing a company's IT security can email "invites" to new employees, which contains a link to download the suite. The product can also be deactivated on a device from the console.

The subscription service starts at US$99 for an annual subscription covering five devices, and goes on to $199 for 10 devices and $399 for 20. New devices can be added for $20 annually, with the subscription pro-rated according to the remaining subscription period.

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