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CA Internet Security Suite - Performance in 2008 Version Doesn't Impress

written by: Paul Pardi•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 6/29/2011

CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 shines as a well-rounded computer security package. It offers the tools most users will need to keep their computers safe. But does this package meet the performance and usability standards set by other leaders in the field? Read on to find out.

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    In general, Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 isn't very different from its predecessor--CA didn't even make the much-needed updates to images and colors from its 2007 offering. But, as with its previous offering, Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 is solid and provides enough of a feature set to warrant the relatively high price tag.

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    Price to Value

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    For close to $70, CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 packs a lot into the package. It generally works as expected, sports a clean clear interface for its tools, and comes from a trusted name in the security business.

    What's Not:

    In my testing, the package's overall performance was subpar. For the money, other products perform better and offer the same level of functionality.

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    Installation & Setup

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 installed with little difficulty, though given the amount of products in the suite, it took about ten minutes to complete.

    CA has chosen to include some setup items in the installation, so users will have to be prepared to watch the setup in order to answer some questions. Thankfully, CA provides help (though sometimes it's a bit scant) to help you figure out how to make the right decisions to install the program properly.

    The installer added about 248 MB to my hard drive and 3,100 keys to my registry.

    What's Not:

    I ran into one anomaly with the parental controls application. I chose not to install it, and this caused an error message to pop up. Clearing the dialog allowed the installer to proceed.

    The install routine also had some unnecessary roadblocks that did little more than frustrate me. The first was the requirement to scroll to the bottom of the End User License Agreement (EULA) before the Next button would be enabled. This restriction does little to encourage users to read the EULA and ends up being little more than technical popcorn.

    The second was the option to install the Yahoo toolbar. As I've said in other reviews, I understand the reason behind this bundling but typically find these sorts of things annoying. Worse, the installer only provides the option to continue (Next) or Cancel, which may confuse users into thinking Cancel would cancel the entire setup.

    The final irritation had to do with the obnoxious registration screen that appears towards the end of setup. Not only is this form intimidating, but there's no clear way to skip it or cancel it. I used the screen's close button to get rid of it (though it continues to appear each time I log into my computer) and even then, I was given this ominous warning that I will be stopping an important process.

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    User Interface

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    Little has changed in the user interface between CA's Internet Security Suite 2007 and the 2008 version. The interface is generally clear and easy to navigate. Each application in the suite seems consistent with the others and metaphors are carried consistently throughout the user interface for each program.

    It was fairly easy to set up exceptions in the firewall, though the advanced options are not novice-friendly. CA does provide a cascading level of complexity through the user of "expert" options on the firewall interface. (I found I couldn't connect to my Remote Desktop instance, which uses a non-standard port, without getting into the advanced settings.)

    What's Not:

    While the user interface is clear and functionally usable, it is aging and in need of an overhaul. It was also sluggish and frustrating at times.

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    Product Features

    Rating Average

    What's Hot:

    Because the feature set is so similar to the 2007 version of CA Internet Security Suite, I'm going to refer readers to my BrightHub review of that product for more in-depth details. I'll say a few general words here by way of overview.

    CA's Internet Security Suite is made up of seven separate computer security products that cover everything from antivirus to anti-spam tools, as well as a firewall and settings migration and parental control tools. The tools are generally easy to understand and operate.

    Many of the tools integrate with CA's online resources and provide a healthy amount of feedback to the user. The system tray icon exposes a helpful amount of control over the applications, including the ability to snooze the virus protection and instantly turn off all access to the Internet in the event of an attack.

    The virus scanner detected the virus in both the Eicar COM and text files and quarantined both. I also was able to click a hotlink in the detection dialog box and it took me to CA's online report about the virus, which gave me important threat information about the virus. The included toolbar add-in also verifies sites and downloads with helpful feedback.

    The spyware scanner also detected the Spycar test threats handily, though the performance was very sluggish. The pop-up gives the user a chance to respond to the threat, but after about ten seconds will disappear and prevent the threat from affecting the computer.

    Overall, Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 is a well-rounded package for the general home user. It comes with all the computer security tools the home system might need and functionally performs as expected (though the speed is less than optimal--see the Performance section of this review).

    What's Not:

    While the virus scanner in the 2008 version detected the Eicar test files, it allowed me to run the COM file before it presented me with a warning dialog box. Other scanners detected the virus before I was able to launch it and stopped me from running the file. While the Eicar virus is innocuous, other threats are not, and I think the scanner should have prevented execution of the file.

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    Rating Average

    What's Not:

    While the performance of the 2007 version was adequate, the performance of Internet Security 2008 was very sluggish. Opening any program, and especially loading and working in Internet Explorer, was noticeably slower and almost unusable in some instances.

    The firewall was the biggest problem. Though I had set the firewall to allow remote desktop connections, I often had to try two or three times before the the target computer would connect. Redraws were sluggish as well. These problems were directly related to the installation of the suite, as I experienced none of this in the prior version. In addition, the firewall was sluggish and aggressive--both would be showstoppers for my environment--but it gave tons of good information about what was happening on my network interfaces and provides plenty of flexibility.

    CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 performed admirably (though not perfectly) when I threw both spyware and viruses at it. As I noted in the Features section of this review, virus detection was slow, too, and the sluggishness negatively affected my tests with the Eicar files.

    Because environmental issues can play a role, I encourage users interested in CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2008 to download a trial version and try it in their environment before making a commitment.

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    Anti-Spyware packageMore information about the Eicar virusAntispam filter caught the Spycar test threatsFirewall optionsParental application install errorProduct list during installRead the EULA!The ever-present registration screenInstall the Yahoo! ToolbarFirewall tweak screenIcons and colors
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    Suggested Features

    I'd like to see CA:
    • Improve the look and feel of the user interface.
    • Improve the performance of the firewall and user interface in general.
    • Add the ability to manage networked computers.
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    Overall, CA Internet Security Plus 2008 is a fine computer security and data protection suite. Its falling behind a bit in its user interface and its sluggish performance have knocked it down a notch on my list of preferred packages.
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