Sophos Anti-Virus installed quickly and painlessly from its CD-ROM. The setup screen provides far more information than those of most antivirus apps; the CD includes monthly installation notes and setup guides. It's nice to know where to turn for help should the installation turn ugly. In a corporate environment, updated individual desktop installations of Sophos are accomplished via the network server, so the program loads fully updated and ready to go.
Sophos Anti-Virus's setup screen provides a lot of useful information.
Sophos's desktop interface is not quite as slick as Norton's, McAfee's, or PC-cillin's, but its simple, icon-and-menu design requires little or no training. For instance, the Go button starts a scan; Stop ends it. But the Configuration and Alert buttons really should really be combined, as both lead you to roughly the same program settings.
Integrated into the main interface is the Sophos scheduler, making it easier than in some antivirus products we've seen to schedule scans. Simply click the Scheduled tab, then the Add button, and proceed from there. Sophos's interface shows a scan's progress, giving you a clear idea of how long a virus checkup will take.
Many antivirus programs prod the user to check for Web updates, or they provide frequent pop-up reports of their actions. Sophos Anti-Virus interacts rarely, if ever, with the end user, which is how most IT departments like it. In fact, we often forgot about the program until it performed a scheduled scan and our system slowed slightly.
Sophos Anti-Virus shows the progress of a scan while it's running.
By default, Sophos Anti-Virus disinfects macro viruses, boot-sector viruses, and some executable viruses. Its memory-resident InterCheck utility prevents users from accessing infected files, but the program lacks a quarantine file to safely remove infected files from active use. If the program cannot disinfect a file, Sophos recommends that it either be manually disinfected (with details on individual viruses available on Sophos's Web site) or overwritten ("shredded"). The manual disinfection/shredding process is a bit more work than is required from other antivirus programs, however.
Sophos also lacks what we consider essential features, including a firewall to prevent authorized system attacks and inbound/outbound e-mail scanning. Sophos has stated no interest in developing its own firewall product. The inbound/outbound e-mail scanning, however, is available as an option.
To measure Sophos Anti-Virus's impact on system performance, CNET Labs used BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. The Internet-content-creation portion of SysMark measures a desktop's performance running off-the-shelf applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder, and Macromedia Dreamweaver. (We did not run the Office Productivity portion of the benchmark because it incorporates McAfee VirusScan 5.13.)
Our test system was a Compaq Evo W4000 running Windows XP Professional with an Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz processor and 512MB of DDR RAM. With Sophos Anti-Virus running, our test system scored a 96--which means the app had a 4 percent impact on overall system performance. By comparison, PC-cillin scored a 98, a 2 percent reduction; McAfee tied F-Secure and EZ Antivirus at 97, a 3 percent reduction; Norton AntiVirus 2003 scored a 95, or a 5 percent reduction; and Panda scored 81, or a noticeable 19 percent slowdown. (An Internet-content-creation score of 100 represents the performance of our test system without any extraneous software running.) In a test of scanning speed, Sophos was on a par with the competition, averaging 1.7 minutes to scan a 1GB directory. By comparison, EZ Antivirus, the champ in this category, performed the same task in only 1.1 minutes, while Central Command's Vexira finished dead last at 4.1 minutes.
To determine whether Sophos Anti-Virus effectively blocks viruses, we gauged its performance in tests conducted by independent antivirus laboratories. In Virus Bulletin's tests with live viruses, previous versions of Sophos Anti-Virus earned the coveted VB 100 percent rating in 11 of its13 most recent Windows-only tests since 2000--a very good showing. In comparison, Norton AntiVirus earned the title 6 out of its last 6 Windows tests since 2000. In the back of the antivirus pack, Panda Platinum passed only once in just 3 Windows tests.
Sophos Anti-Virus's main interface includes a link to the company's online Virus Library, which provides a searchable database of known viruses, Trojan horses, worms, and so on. The help documentation is clearly written and illustrated.
Sophos's online Virus Library provides detailed information on viruses and other digital troublemakers.
Sophos also provides complimentary e-mail support, a standard feature among antivirus vendors. In our tests, tech support e-mail replies were prompt. For instance, a 3 p.m. query was answered by 5 a.m. the following morning. Sophos's best support offering, however, is toll-free, 24/7 telephone support. Vexira's availability for its corporate customers is the same, but the number's not toll-free.