With the sheer proliferation of viruses, spam, Trojans and other malware out there, it is vital to have a good internet security solution, to protect yourself and your business from malicious attacks and the consequences of these, writes Shaun van der Merwe, Symantec retail product manager at Drive Control Corporation (DCC).

The reality is, without adequate protection your computer is highly vulnerable and could be used by spammers as a spam server, or you could become the victim of identity theft. But selecting the internet security solution that is right for you can be a difficult process.
At the end of the day, most software claims to offer the same thing. But not all solutions are created equal in terms of actual performance and impact on systems, which is why there are so many benchmarking tests and reports conducted. These test various solutions according to set performance criteria, which can help to make the decision a far simpler process.
However some of the benchmarking tests can be quite complex, so we have highlighted the top 10 considerations to look at in these tests to help you choose the perfect solution to meet your needs with minimal impact on system performance.
* Boot time – This is the time taken for the machine to boot up. Security software is launched when the operating system starts up, which adds to the boot time of systems. Ideally your internet security should add as little time as possible to the boot time, so when looking at benchmarking tests check to see which solution has the shortest boot time.
* Scan time – Internet security solutions detect viruses, worms and other malware by scanning all of the files contained on a system. This can be a time consuming process that can drastically reduce system performance. Look for a solution that conducts thorough scans in the shortest time with the lowest system impact, otherwise machines will slow down for long periods of time, making it difficult to work on them whilst scans are taking place.
* Launch time – Take a look at how long the product takes to launch the interface of the security software. The better the response time the less frustrating the software is to use, so find a solution that launches quickly. Also take a look at how long other applications, such as internet browsers, take to launch with the security software running. These give a good indication of how much system processing and RAM the software is taking up.
* Internet browsing time – Security solutions often scan websites and downloaded content as the sites and content is being loaded. This can have an impact on browsing speed as software scans sites for malware. Look for a solution that has a minimal impact on browsing speeds.
* Memory usage when the system is idle – Examine the amount of RAM a security solution uses when both the machine and the product are at idle. This gives a good idea of how much of your system resources and processing power the product takes up all the time. The lower the memory usage in an idle state, the less impact the solution has on your system at all times.
* Installation time – Take a look at how long a product takes to install. The quicker and easier a product is to install the less time is wasted at the outset. This also impacts your perception of the product. If it is complicated and lengthy to install it is not an ideal solution for end users.
* Installation size – How much space the software will take up on your hard drive once installed is another important factor to consider. The less total disk space consumed by the product the more hard drive space will be available for other applications and files.
* Registry key count – How many keys and values are added to the system registry by a security solution after installation? A large registry will increase usage of system resources, slowing down system performance especially on older machines. Look for a solution that adds fewer registry keys.
* How the software impacts file tasks – Look at how much time it takes to copy, move, delete, write, open and close files as well as converting file formats as well as compressing and decompressing files. This is another indication of how much of the system's resources are being used by security solutions. If the performance time on benchmark tests of the above is slow, the security software is very resource intensive and will have a negative impact on system performance and therefore user experience.
* Network throughput – Benchmarking tests often measure how long it takes to download common file types. This helps to indicate how quickly security software can scan the files as they are being downloaded. Ideally a solution should scan files quickly to have minimal impact on download times and increase network throughput.
By examining these 10 aspects on any benchmarking test, it is possible to get a good idea of how an internet security solution will impact upon system performance. What organisations need to look for is a system that provides a full spectrum security offering while having minimal system impact, so that users can go about their everyday jobs without security getting in their way.