Any industry where billions of dollars are to be made includes leaders who generally define the field, have lots of market share, and have capital to innovate and improve. It also includes relatively small companies that are trying to grab a piece of the market share and the money. Smaller players usually have a huge challenge when trying to beat the big guys because they typically have to offer a better product at a competitive price, with less capital.
Unfortunately, MicroWorld’s eScan is a small fish in a big pond and simply doesn’t have the technology, design, or usability to compete. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about the product and it has a lot going against it. The biggest flaw I found was its inferior runtime virus scanner. MicroWorld needs to nail that technology before it has even a glimmer of hope of competing.
The product installation was a bit rough and seemed patched together. It lacked the cohesion of an installation written from the ground up. Once installed, the product ran fine and took up only a modest amount of memory. But a less-than-polished user interface, sluggish applications, and a poor virus scanner plagued the application from start to finish.
Security & Privacy (1 out of 5)
The runtime virus scanner performed poorly. When attempting to download the Eicar test file, I was able to load the text version of the file into my browser without a peep from eScan. Other, more robust scanners caught the virus and prevented the page from loading. When I attempted to launch the application virus (a .com file), the scanner caught the fact that it was a virus and told me that the file had been deleted but then allowed me to download or launch the file anyway.
Price to Value (1 out of 5)
At close to $60, MicroWorld’s eScan is about $60 too expensive. Products by BitDefender, CA, Norton, McAfee, and Microsoft offer products with higher quality for less money.
Installation & Setup (2 out of 5)
The application installation was quite uneventful at the beginning; it appeared to be a generic installer with all the usual prompts. The installer did support a unique feature that warned me about the problems that might occur in having multiple virus scanners running, and offered to disable any other running scanners.
At the “end” of the install wizard, things livened up. It seemed that the last stage of the wizard involved launching a small application or applications that did various tasks to complete the installation.
As a part of the processes that occurred after the install wizard ended, I was asked if I wanted to install a small management console that apparently could be used to manage eScan on other, networked computers. It also noted that I would be installing the Lite Edition. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite sure what this software would do and there was no help option to explain it to me.
The installer then appeared to update eScan files (some looked like virus signature files). The installer application did not prompt me before doing the update. In most cases the lack of a prompt wouldn’t matter much; some users, however, may like to be warned before an application downloads files to their computer, and a prompt could be handy if Internet connectivity is lost or unavailable. Further, I was unclear what the impact would be if I pressed the Exit button during the update (“Stop installing updates” would be clearer).
The installer launched the virus scanner and did what appeared to be a quick scan (again, without prompting me first). The scanner ran, exited, and then the installation process proceeded.
The installer then ran some other tools, one of which crashed both times I ran the installer. I believe the tool that crashed was the email scanner. I wasn’t told what was being installed and I didn’t know if the tool that crashed was critical or not. The installation continued without any apparent problems after I cleared the crash notification.
Finally, I was asked to enter my license information and the eScan installer produced a handy (albeit unclear) license manager dialog box. I wasn’t sure what the value of this could be, unless the dialog would allow users to manage licenses across a network (or, perhaps, for other eScan products installed on the same machine). There was one other minor anomaly. The taskbar item for the custom installer rendered with odd colors. It appeared to be using an odd color palette that rendered incorrectly on my system.
The installation program wrote approximately 186 MB to my hard drive and created 208 registry keys with a little over 1400 values. The installer required a reboot. The product could not be uninstalled by re-running the installation package. I had to remove the product through Add/Remove Programs. The uninstaller removed 182 MB and 45 registry keys belonging to the application from my system.
User Interface (2 out of 5)
MicroWorld’s eScan user interface is a strange brew. Poor grammar in text elements, non-standard implementation of common UI elements, and strange functionality are some of the items that plague eScan’s usability. The installer, by default, did not place any shortcut icons on my desktop, so without opening the Start menu, access to the application(s) was by way of two system tray icons: one resembling a shield and one bearing a small “e.”
Hovering over the “e” icon produced a tooltip that indicated that the icon was for the eScan Updater and included the date when eScan was last updated. Hovering over the shield icon indicated that this icon was for the eScan Anti-Virus Monitor. Based on these descriptions, I expected the shield to be the interface for the main application and the “e” to be merely an updater that I’d rarely have to interact with. Not so. Only the “e” icon had a menu, and it was this icon that launched the main scanner application. The shield icon launched the management interface for the runtime scanners.
Both of the main applications (the scanning application and the monitoring application) could be launched by double-clicking their respective icons. The scanning interface could also be launched by right-clicking on the “e” icon and choosing “Start eScan for Windows” from the menu. Oddly, the eScan interface took roughly ten seconds to load each time I attempted to start it.
Both applications were laid out similarly and functioned in roughly the same way, using menu buttons along the left-hand side and a content area on the right. Both had oddly placed icons in the upper right of the main dialog box below the blue header. These functioned like a toolbar would, but seemed out of place. They also competed, at times, with other icons that would appear just below the toolbar icons in the content area after clicking a button.
Some of the tooltips are unclear at best. Hovering over one icon reveals that with the button you’re able to “Set to Default.” Since this is a global button, it’s unclear exactly what will be set to default.
Some of eScan’s UI objects are poorly implemented. For example, in the Anti-Virus Monitor application, a tree control is implemented for the options screen. For some options, the designers at MicroWorld use the parent node as the start of the sentence that describes the options and the child nodes to complete the sentence (the child nodes being the options per se). One option allows you to set the location of infected files to a “Special folder” or to “The object folder.” These two options make up the child nodes. The parent node reads, “For renaming or copying of infected objects use.” When the parent is collapsed, this last sentence is all that’s visible, which makes no sense, to say the least.
The scanner application also implements some odd UI behavior. In the Virus Check section, you’re given a list of what appear to be options for scanning your system. Clicking on any of the options highlights the option and changes some tiny help text at the bottom of the field. The options do not function like buttons or hyperlinks in that clicking the text or the icon does nothing but change the highlighting and the text. Hovering over the option doesn’t change the mouse pointer to indicate that the list is “hot” or active. After trying some different things, I double-clicked an option and it launched a scanner. I must say that in all my years working with computers, this is the first time that I can recall where I encountered an active button implementation like this. It was only after I found the double-click option that I noticed that single-clicking one of the options enables the start button at the bottom left. This was mainly because the default size for the dialog put the start button too far away from the options and I simply didn’t see it.
The terms used for these options are confusing and seem a bit dated. For example, you can choose to have eScan scan your floppy disc–a medium that most computers shipped in the last few years have not supported; though this may bemore useful for an international audience. You are also given the option to scan your CD-ROM disc but not a DVD disc. Another option allows you to “Check computer,” but it’s not clear how this differs from “Check directories/files” or “Check memory & registry.” Clicking the option launches the virus scanner without giving the user the option to choose what is scanned (it scans every folder and disk on the system).
Performance (3 out of 5)
My goal in testing the performance of the real-time scanner was mainly to see if it would cause any noticeable and obvious slowdown when doing daily tasks like copying files or browsing the Internet. To create a more controlled environment for these procedures, I wrote a small software program that does the following: the first test copies five 21 MB files over my home network from the local machine (on which eScan is installed) to a network share and precisely times the process. I run this test five times and take the average result in milliseconds. This test is run twice; once with the scanners running and once with them turned off. The second test involves copying 300 8K files over the network. I wanted to see if the smaller files would negatively effect the scanning engines. This test, too, is run five times each with the scanners running and not running. The average time in both runs is calculated in milliseconds. Finally, my program downloads the full content of five major websites with complex layouts. I ran each test five times on a 2.2 GHz Celeron machine with 1 GB RAM and Windows XP SP2 with all the latest service packs. The destination machine is running Windows Vista Ultimate. Here are the results of the tests for eScan:
Large files: 15055 ms
Small files: 6125 ms
Websites: 6512 ms
Large files: 15209 ms
Small files: 6393 ms
Websites: 6289 ms
As is evident, there was no significant difference in the time it took to perform these operations between having the scanners on and having them off. The runtime scanning engines used a moderate 48 MB of memory.
In the “User Interface” section, I alluded to the sluggish behavior when launching the primary eScan application. I also noticed some slowness when attempting to open and close one of the system scanners. After double-clicking the “Check Memory and Registry” option, it took almost 15 seconds for the scanner to load and start scanning. After stopping the scanner and clicking OK to close the scanner dialog box, it took approximately nine seconds for the box to disappear.
Product Features (3 out of 5)
The virus scanner includes features found in most modern scanners. It will check your system’s memory and registry, removable media, and of course your hard drive. It appears that eScan uses different scanners depending on the type of scan you wish to perform. Choosing the memory and registry option will launch a specific scanner that uses a Kaspersky scanning engine. The scanner interface for this scanner is different than the others.
Choosing any of the other scanning options produces a scanner with an interface that looks more like the eScan shell applications. It’s unclear whether these scanners use Kaspersky or not, but based on the fact that Kaspersky is not credited on these other scanners, my guess is that MicroWorld licensed the Kaspersky engine for the memory and registry scanner so they could include it in their offering.
The scanners can be set to run on a regular schedule and the scheduling interface nicely exposes detailed options. Both the full scanner and the runtime scanner can be customized. The customization options are adequate but probably too few for the power user. Both applications include reporting features and a local help file (which can only be accessed through the full scanner interface, and not through the runtime scanner interface).
The help is weak, basically describing what is clearly available in the UI. There is little troubleshooting content.
- The user interface needs to be reworked. MicroWorld should move to a single user interface for all aspects of the product.
- The virus scanner needs improvement so that it will not allow users to launch harmful applications.
- eScan needs better integration between its applications and scanning engines.
To compete with other products in the virus protection space, eScan has a long way to go. It simply lacks any technology or usability features that make it stand out from the crowd. For the money, there are too many other products that perform better, cost less, and offer more.
McAfee VirusScan Plus, BitDefender AntiVirus, Norton AntiVirus, Microsoft OneCare