Symantec unveils lightweight Norton suite
By Darien Graham-Smith in Madrid
Posted on 17 Sep 2008 at 08:54
Symantec has launched its latest security suite, Norton Internet Security 2009, at a glamorous bash in Madrid.
The high-profile venue reflects the company's belief that this year's product is a landmark release. "I've been here 19 years," announced senior vice president Rowan Trollope, "and I can promise you this is absolutely the best product we've ever released."
The biggest new feature in Norton 2009 is called Norton Insight - a global whitelisting network that shares information about trustworthy files using 256-bit SHA hashing. When one Norton client scans a file and finds it to be clean, that information is shared so that no other PC with a copy of that file needs to scan it. It's a similar system to the Kaspersky 2009 whitelist, and the net effect is a drastic reduction in resource usage
Marketing director Con Mallon demonstrated the system on a sample laptop. "93% of files on this PC are common files which we already know about," he explained. "So in effect we only need to scan one in every ten files on this system. And we can give back all the rest of those CPU cycles to the customer."
Smaller footprint, faster startup
Symantec claims that this and over 300 other improvements have made Norton 2009 dramatically more efficient than previous versions - and competing products. Mallon gave a live demonstration of the complete 2009 installation procedure, which took less than a minute.
Then Trollope released independent test results that showed Norton 2009 to have the smallest memory footprint of any major security suite - and the fastest system startup time. "We're three or four times smaller than the next competitor," he proudly announced.
These are impressive claims, but it's notable that the company has dropped the implausible "zero impact" line it was trailing before release. Instead, it now promises "zero disruption."
"Zero disruption means that the user interface has to stay out of the way at all times," explained Mallon. "When we have to do things on your system, we should do it only when you're not using the computer. We should never take CPU cycles away from the user."
For this reason, Norton 2009 deprecates scheduled actions. Tasks such as updating the virus database or scanning files now run when the suite detects the computer is not being used, rather than following a strict timetable. The company has also sought to lower the impact of database updates by moving from an eight-hour update cycle to what Trollope terms a five-minute "trickle".
Winning back trust
Despite significant improvements in recent editions of the Norton suites, Symantec is well aware that the brand still carries a reputation for hogging resources. So as an extra reassurance, it's built CPU and memory gauges directly into the Norton UI. "We're calling ourselves out," explained Trollope, "putting these things right where the users can see them."
"To those people who have been sceptical, we're saying 'come back and see if your scepticism is still valid'," added Con Mallon.
"We know there's a proportion of former customers who are not ready to come back; but there are some who are willing to give us just a few minutes. And with Norton Internet Security 2009, there's a lot we can do in a few minutes."
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