Review: AVG CloudCare for Distributed Businesses

Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) networks share much in common with those of large enterprises, especially when it comes to securing and managing endpoints. But large enterprises have more resources, budget, and personnel to deal with endpoint management and security, giving them a tactical advantage over SMEs. Can SMEs ever hope to have their security and system management needs fully met?

AVG aims to answer that question with a resounding “Yes.” The vendor’s CloudCare service unifies security and system management under a single umbrella of proactive protection, integrating centralized management with remote client technology to ensure that administrators can manage and secure PCs no matter where they are. Available via AVG’s extensive partner network, CloudCare brings unified management to end users as a managed service that combines security, support, and other elements in a subscription-based model.

Unified management products are nothing new. AVG, however, has chosen to put a twist on the model by shifting the management burden to the cloud, while still providing all the bells and whistles of onsite offerings. What’s more, AVG offers a free platform, which allows potential subscribers to try out the basics before committing to the more advanced capabilities of the service.

Perhaps it is best to call AVG CloudCare a managed service as opposed to a hosted solution. After all, it transitions all of the security and management software over to a cloud-based host, save for a locally installed client application. That symbiotic relationship between the client application and the hosted service gives AVG CloudCare several advantages over traditional, onsite solutions. Those advantages include:

  • Simplified installation: AVG CloudCare can push client components out to endpoints with URL-based scripts, and the management portions of the service require no server or host installations. CloudCare even offers an option to automatically remove competitive AVG applications.
  • Fully automated updates: As a cloud service, AVG CloudCare automatically updates the endpoint software with the latest signatures, patches, and release versions. This keeps systems up to date with the latest software while avoiding the hassles of de-installs, re-installs, and manual patching.
  • Reduced resource demands: As a hosted, free platform, AVG CloudCare requires no onsite server or appliance for deployment and use. Just log on through a browser and start managing multiple customers from the centralized control panel.
  • Continuity: AVG CloudCare allows management of systems in the field as long as they have Internet access, even during major failures of office networks. Endpoints disconnected from the Internet are also still protected with the latest profiles and signatures. When endpoints reconnect, any profile changes are immediately updated.
  • Reduced licensing costs: Pay-as-you-go options and the ability to buy only what you need keep costs low.

AVG CloudCare Remote IT

As a cloud-based solution, AVG CloudCare benefits from three deployment choices to ease setup and reduce the need for onsite installs. The remote deployment option automatically pushes the service to targeted clients.

Admins supporting remote users will appreciate the free AVG Remote IT module. The module brings extended support and remediation capabilities, and integrates nicely with CloudCare’s monitoring and alerting capabilities. Admins can configure these to automatically inform them of problems with endpoints via the dashboard, helping end users receive quick support and speeding the resolution of problems.

AVG Remote IT combines remote control with all of the benefits of desktop/server management. For example, the dashboard gives administrators a quick and easy way to initiate a remote control session. What’s more, admins using CloudCare can initiate those sessions from most any browser. That basic capability gives admins a wide array of ways to reach out to troubleshoot or solve problems.

AVG Remote IT also includes features that allow administrators to more easily interact with end users. One-to-one chat windows, file transfers, and real-time updates help ease the administrative burden, while other features, such as dashboard-based shortcuts, real-time alerting, and remote resolution customization make it easy for administrators to work with managed endpoints.

AVG CloudCare antivirus and content filtering

Remote administration is only part of the management story, however. AVG CloudCare also offers antivirus and content filtering capabilities. Admins can set up policies to control access to over 60 million URLs. Content filtering groups can provide customized filtering and control over what PCs can access, helping organizations maintain corporate and HR policies while protecting end users from suspicious, malicious, or simply time-wasting sites.

AVG CloudCare’s content filtering features proved easy to set up. The service can block access to websites based on a number of criteria driven by admin-set policies. The service can apply these policies to all computers, groups of computers, individual computers, and so on. What’s more, a scheduling feature allows administrators to define what time of day specific sites can be accessed. For example, some businesses may allow social media access during lunch hours as a perk to employees.

The antivirus portion of the service, which CloudCare can automatically push down to client systems, incorporates full anti-malware capabilities and a software firewall. Administrators can create policies to set up the security features, automating deployment and updating to reduce the management burden. The service also includes identity theft protection. This warns users of potential dangers to their  personal information by using a behavioral engine, which looks for suspicious activity in memory, on disk while users work. AVG CloudCare’s security technology also protects against zero day threats as well as known threats. The anti-malware scanning engine also provides real-time scanning of Skype connections and web, Facebook, and Twitter links.

AVG CloudCare email security

AVG CloudCare offers an optional module for email security. This option actually comprises a suite of products, which include anti-spam, archiving, and encryption. The service works by intercepting (or rerouting) all email normally sent to the customer’s email server. In effect, it works behind the scenes, giving the impression that email protection comes integrated into the email client, as well as the original email server.

The advantage of this email rerouting is that infected email never makes it to the local network or onto local systems, effectively quarantining suspicious content. The service handles all incoming and outgoing email, helping further protect from email-borne viruses or malware propagating across systems. When administrators choose the archiving option, all incoming and outgoing email is stored to a cloud-based archive, an important capability for business that need to maintain communication trails for legal reasons.

The policy-based encryption service uses administrator-defined rules to encrypt company emails based on content, sender, and recipient for regulatory compliance. It can also automatically encrypt emails based on specific keywords in their subject lines or on specific recipient domains or addresses.

AVG CloudCare reporting

One of AVG CloudCare’s most important features is reporting. CloudCare comes with 14 reports, such as Executive Summary, Security, Operational, and Content Filter. Reports offer information on threats detected, devices in need of attention, filtering statistics, and so on, informing IT managers of activity and status of all devices. The service can generate reports as PDF files and share them as needed.

For IT managers wishing to stay up to date in real time, AVG CloudCare also offers customizable alerts, which instantly notify managers when devices encounter security threats or are infected. The service can automatically generate and send emails and SMS messages out to individuals or groups. AVG CloudCare logs all events in the web interface; administrators must acknowledge those events to remove them from the list.

Unlike competing products, such as Symantec’s SEP SBE 2013, AVG CloudCare goes beyond anti-malware protection to bring other critical capabilities to the forefront of endpoint management, at a starting price that can’t be beat. What’s more, AVG CloudCare proves quick, easy, and automated, making it perfect for SMEs.

AVG CloudCare does not currently offer support for Apple products or Linux-based endpoints, but with over 36 million Android and iOS app installs, AVG appears to be on the path to integrating mobile device management and security into CloudCare.

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