ZoneAlarm Pro includes a Spyware scanner, email protection, privacy and identity protection, and a firewall. It doesn't include virus software but will monitor third-party virus software installed on your system. This enables you to manage all your security products through a single interface. ZoneAlarm Pro also integrates cleanly with Windows' Security Center.
When ZoneAlarm loads for the first time, you're asked if you want to watch a video tutorial to become acquainted with the software. This is a nice touch for those who want to get oriented to the software quickly.
The "ZoneAlarm" name really is descriptive in the case of this software. First, the "zone" part. The ZoneAlarm firewall rightly divides your network into two zones; trusted and internet. Each IP address that is being used by your network can be added to either of these zones. At first launch, ZoneAlarm asks about the IP addresses on your system and into which zone each should be placed. This is a unique approach to securing a home network and I liked it. With other software the user has to see multiple popups while the software learns which applications to trust and which ones not to trust. With ZoneAlarm you can add traffic along a specific IP into the trusted zone and don't have to be constantly asked if activity on that IP should be trusted or not. Some users may want that granular oversight but I like security software that is smart enough to manage those decisions and let me do other things.
One of the more powerful features of the firewall is the ability to set up rules. This is for the power user (in fact ZoneAlarm puts this feature under the "Expert" tab) who has a complex environment and needs the power of flexibility. This feature allows users to set up security on specific network paths using specific network protocols. Say you want files to travel from a computer with an IP address of 22.214.171.124 to a computer with an IP address of 126.96.36.199 using the TCP/IP protocol and the communication can only happen from 1am to 3am on Tuesdays. ZoneAlarm's rule feature allows you to set that up and it's fairly easy to do.
ZoneAlarm's scanners also look for applications that engage it. What it determines to be "suspicious behavior" will trigger a pop up warning message. The alert is quite busy and didn't clearly indicate to me what application was causing the issue. The application title is too small to see quickly and make a decision about . However, once I knew where to look future alerts were dismissed more easily.
Now the "alarm" part. One of ZoneAlarm's distinctions is in the way it provides for the ability to quickly shut down internet access in the event of an attack. It uses a kind of "panic button" approach where it allows the user to tell ZoneAlarm to stop all traffic to and from the internet by hitting a big red button. Internet access can also quickly be locked down by clicking the lock icon in the top tool bar.
Additionally, ZoneAlarm supports the ability to turn off internet access when the screen saver kicks in or when the computer has been idle for a specified amount of time. For users who only want to be connected to the internet when they're in front of their computer, this is a novel way to provide for that. Instead of having to turn your computer or cable modem off when you leave, ZoneAlarm will automatically handle access for you. It's certainly a novel approach and one that I have not seen in other packages. For many, this type of modulated access doesn't support usage patterns. However, for the occasional browser or emailer who doesn't want to be concerned with activity on their computer while they're away, these features could be effective.