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-- Bill P. Godfrey, 2022.
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Thursday, February 23, 2006

What Is A Virus Scanner? A Product, or a Service?

There's possibly nothing worse than a computer with an out-of-date virus scanner. All the time taken to perform the scan is ultimately wasted. It couldn't recognise a new virus if it danced a jig and sang "Viruses are here again". But this is the situation that many people find themselves in. They purchase anti-virus software and assume that their computer will be safe forevermore.

Commercial anti-virus software is sold as a product. You hand over your money and you get the software in a box. But, good anti-virus software has to be an ongoing service. New viruses appear all the time and anti-virus software has to be updated to keep track of the new threats. Most anti-virus software packages include a one year subscription to their update service, but what about when that year is up? Many of us don't even notice until its too late and a virus has made it past an outdated scanner.

In my ideal world, anti-virus software would be given away for free, with the vendors charging a monthly fee for updates. Stop paying the monthly fee and the software wouldn't even pretend to work. (That would be a great wake-up call.) After all, the value of anti-virus software is the ability to handle current threats. With outdated software, you are left with a fairly useless file scanner.

So, if ongoing service is key, why is virus scanning software packaged in a box with a limited service period? I think we all prefer tangible solutions to our problems. It's probably the reason the vendors market the way they do. Imagine you wanted to buy a padlock and I tried to sell you one that would only work if you paid a monthly fee.

You would probably look at me funny.
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  • Nice article.

    What is your opinion on paying a monthly fee to use other forms of software such as an operating system or a word processor?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 1:04 PM, February 23, 2006

  • (Thanks)

    Software such as operating systems or word processors could work just as well with a one-off payment or a monthly fee, in the same way that you can either buy or rent (say) a TV set. The TV itself will work just as well either way.

    Having said that, operating systems like Windows XP do have be kept updated in a similar way to anti-virus software. The difference here is that operating system updates are for bug fixes, whereas anti-virus updates are new data.

    By Blogger Bill P. Godfrey, At 1:37 PM, February 26, 2006