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Aargh! Bamboozled by security licensing - what works for my family?

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Readers' corner And so to El Reg Forums and Edwin, a commentard since 2007, who is having a bit of trouble in choosing IT security software for his family. He writes:

I'm rapidly losing my mind in the minefield that is security software, particularly when it comes to licensing many devices... The internet has become useless for this sort of research, I find: 90% of search result hits are resellers trying to sell me software rather than a comprehensive comparative review.

Let me sketch it out:

I'm looking for a software solution to manage security on the family digital devices (me, wife, kids of 9 and 12). Between the four of us, we have three Windows 7 PCs, three Android tablets and four Lumia phones. The software in question must:

  • provide good antivirus and general protection for the PCs for all platforms
  • provide good malware protection for the tablets
  • provide an overview of which android apps pose privacy risks
  • be free of ads and whatnot (which is why I'm abandoning Avast)

Nice-to-haves:

  • parental controls (restrict what the kids can install on their tablets)
  • have some intention of covering WinPho in the future
  • whatever system optimisation and other features they care to add

So far, I'm looking at Symantec, Bitdefender, Webroot and Kaspersky. They all seem to offer more or less the same features, though licensing is a nightmare: almost everyone will cover *5* devices, but not *6* (or, if we include the handsets, 10).

WinPho doesn't seem to be covered by anyone, though Webroot indicated they have been contemplating it, which puts my costs for one year (in USD, since that's what the websites are offering at first glance) at:

Symantec: $100. They offer Norton 360 licenses up to 5 devices, so I would need to buy one extra mobile security license. The customer service agent I chatted with suggested Norton One instead of the Norton360 family pack, because you can 'add seats'. Great idea, except Norton One costs twice what the 360 pack costs, and offers for no clear extra value that I can make out.

Kaspersky: $105. They have a 10 device license, but that costs more than taking out a 3 device overall license for the PCs and another 3 device license for the tablets (why???)

Bitdefender: $130. Bitdefender stands out here in that they offer 'family member' packages, so for households of 3 or 5 people they will cover all devices. Great licensing model, though the most expensive offering of the lot (and what's wrong with my family of *4* people?)

Webroot: $60. They are by far the cheapest option on the face of it. Their customer support also claims to offer a 10 device license, but I can't find it on their website. Plan B would be a 3 device license plus 3 copies of their Android software (though whether the android software goes by year is unclear)

In the end, it's not strictly about cost, but about functionality and reliability. Cost comes in second (very, very close second if you ask the wife).

My question is: does anyone have experience with any of these packages and different licensing models? Or is there some key player I'm completely overlooking? I appreciate that lasct question is a bit like starting a discussion about your favourite Linux editor (emacs) or hard disk model (who cares), but suggestions are welcome!

Gentle reader, what do you think? This way to the Forums. ®

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