Very good malicious URL protection. Streamlined user interface (UI) shows admins just enough info. Excellent alerting capabilities simplify ongoing management.
Fair phishing detection. Policy can’t be assigned and managed by group. Lacks role-based administration and full audit logs.
- BOTTOM LINE
AVG CloudCare is a value-priced, easy-to-deploy and administer, cloud-based endpoint protection solution. It offers good protection, but lacks some required business features for larger organizations. Nonetheless, AVG CloudCare is a good option for small business without complex security environments.
BY MATTHEW D. SARRELAVG CloudCare (which begins between $0.56-$1.30 per device per month) is a cloud-delivered endpoint protection solution provided through a partner channel. The service is comprised of AVG Antivirus (which includes file protection), e-mail protection for Microsoft Outlook$69.99 at Dell and other mail clients, identity protection, web protection, and a firewall. AVG Content Filtering Service and AVG Online Backup Service are available for an additional fee. While AVG CloudCare does have a very nice price, it lacks some key IT administrative capabilities, which relegates it to smaller businesses and keeps it behind Editors’ Choice winner Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection$25.00 at Webroot for now.
On the plus side, AVG CloudCare does a great job of letting customers start small and simple and then get deeper into policy. A small business with straightforward security needs would be happier with AVG CloudCare than larger organizations with more complex needs (such as the ability to create and manage policy on a group level, and role-based administration where different administrators have different privileges). A streamlined workflow is important to AVG CloudCare. It starts with a well-written Quick Start guide that will help admins protect their endpoints immediately, and then relies on outstanding alerts and reports to keep admins apprised of threats and errors, with remediation just a few clicks away.
Getting Started With AVG CloudCare
The dashboard is organized to provide quick access to common tasks and alert status. Common tasks run across the top of the dashboard, including Add Desktop-Server Device, Add Group, Add Alert, Add Policy, and Add User. I chose to add a device and was walked through the process of sending an email invitation, with a link to download and install the client agent. I could also have chosen to download the install package and push that to my users on my own, or use an already-installed AVG CloudCare client to push an install package to other endpoints on my network using my Active Directory (AD) credentials. The bulk of the dashboard is then consumed by a color-coded list of open alerts, followed by historical charts of alert conditions. Clicking an indicated alert opens the alert list where individual alerts can be quickly remediated.
The Device tab provides a list of devices that can be sorted, filtered, and placed into groups. Scans can be issued for individual devices, a group, or the entire company. Devices have a color-coded circle next to their names to indicate their protection status. Protection features can be toggled on specific devices. The Devices tab is also where discovered malware is managed through the Virus Vault which, strangely enough, is accessed through a drop-down list at the top of the page. Quarantined malware can be restored or deleted on a device-by-device basis.
Client agent installation was pretty speedy, involving a 175MB download. After installation, I was encouraged to reboot my workstation and run a full scan. Users can be given varying degrees of control over the user agent. They can be allowed access to the user interface (UI) and to all of its settings, and given the ability to uninstall the agent. The agent can be password-protected to prevent access to certain features as well. System tray notifications can be turned on and off by feature, too. It’s possible to protect devices without users ever knowing, by pushing a silent install and then disabling all notifications.
Policy as Deep You Want
I really like how AVG CloudCare handles policy configuration. The default settings will probably be good enough for most businesses. Looking at its antivirus policy, features such as file scanning can be toggled on or off. I could dig deeper by clicking Advanced Settings and selecting more detailed scan settings such as “Scan boot sector of removable media.” I then could dig even deeper while still in Expert Settings where I could set file types to be excluded. This deep-as-you-want-to-get methodology makes the product accessible for security novices yet detailed enough to satisfy security pros. AVG CloudCare does a better job of managing the complexities of policy than does F-Secure Protection Service for BusinessFree at F-Secure or Kaspersky Lab Small Office Security$149.00 at Kaspersky Lab, but it falls short of our Editors’ Choice Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection, which also includes a policy comparison tool.
When using AVG CloudCare, however, each policy can be copied and then modified so I didn’t have to start fresh each time. There’s also a handy link to reset each policy back to AVG CloudCare defaults (in case an admin goes down a path and simply wants to restart at the beginning). It was easy to assign policy to specify devices by dragging and dropping them between individual policies, but I was disappointed that this could only be done on a device level and not on a group level. Devices are sorted by Windows machine name in the Assign Policy list so this isn’t scalable for larger organizations.
Outstanding Alerts and Reporting
AVG CloudCare does a great job with alerting. The product ships with 20 customizable alerts ranging from Threat Detected to Memory Utilization Reached. It was easy to select which alerts I wanted to receive, set thresholds, and then configure destination email or SMSaddresses. Alerting is so good that I expect many small to midsize business (SMB) IT admins will take a “deploy and enjoy” stance, deploying AVG CloudCare and then ignoring it until they receive alerts. Open alerts are featured prominently on the dashboard where they can be explored and conditions remediated.
Reports are both informative and helpful. AVG CloudCare ships with 15 detailed reports plus an executive summary. Reports can be filtered by device, device group, and time frame; however, the extent of report customization is limited to adding a company name and logo. I found it easy to create a report, set filters, and schedule it to be emailed to me on a regular basis. Reports can be printed or exported as CSV files for further analysis.
Still, AVG CloudCare’s orientation towards SMBs, as opposed to larger organizations, clearly showed. For example, unlike Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security$149.96 at Bitdefender, Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security Services$29.06 at Trend Micro, and Webroot, there is no full audit trail to see all administrative actions taken by all users—a requirement for many organizations with more than one security admin.
Help is available through links shown on every page. Although the written HTML documentation is thorough and includes screenshots and step-by-step text instructions, I was disappointed that help is not context-sensitive. AVG CloudCare provides an excellent 9-page PDF Quick Start guide that walks you through the basics, such as using the portal, adding new users, managing devices, configuring policies, creating alerts, and generating reports.
The core of AVG CloudCare is the same engine that powers the company’s consumer products, AVG Internet Security (2016)$54.99 at AVG Technologies and AVG AntiVirus (2016)$39.99 at AVG Technologies. AVG does very well in independent lab testing but falls short of perfect. Most lab results are of testing done on AVG’s consumer product, which uses the same protection engine as CloudCare. AVG Cloudcare was tested three times in 2014 byVirus Bulletin and given VB100 certification all three times. Virus Bulletin has awarded AVG Internet Security VB100 certification in every test except one in 2013. In AV-Test Institute’s testing, AVG CloudCare had perfect scores on protection and usability, but had 2 points out of 6 deducted in the performance category, for a total of 16 points. In the last five tests done by AV-Comparatives, AVG CloudCare received three Advanced+ ratings, one Advanced rating, and one Standard rating. Dennis Technology Labs gave AVG’s free product a rating of AA.
To test AVG CloudCare’s ability to block web-based attacks, I used a feed of newly-discovered malicious URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas. Although I tested these URLs within eight hours of receiving them, quite a few had already vanished. For each still-functioning URL, I recorded whether AVG CloudCare blocked access in the browser, blocked the download, or failed to identify and block the page and the download at all. I tested 90 valid URLs. AVG CloudCare blocked 76 percent of the malicious URLs. This is comparable to Bitdefender, Panda Security Endpoint Protection$220.35 at Panda Security, and Webroot, all of which trail behind Sophos Cloud Endpoint Protection$14.33 at Sophos (93 percent) and Trend Micro (88 percent).
I also ran AVG CloudCare through my antiphishing tests, using a list of 100 of the most recently reported phishing URLs. I fed the same set of URLs simultaneously to four test systems, each with a different form of protection. The primary was my AVG CloudCare test system. The remaining three used the protection built into Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer (IE). AVG edged out Chrome by 7 percent and Firefox by 16 percent, but fell slightly behind IE by 4 percent. My current leaders in antiphishing among hosted endpoint protection services are Bitdefender GravityZone Business Security, Kaspersky Lab Small Office Security, and Webroot—all of which beat AVG CloudCare handily.
As a double-check for AVG CloudCare’s active protections, I installed a group of 20 PCMag.com utilities to see if any of these legitimate applications would be blocked as malware. My tests yielded no false positives as AVG CloudCare allowed me to install and execute them all.
I began assessing the firewall with a Network Mapper (Nmap) scan and AVG CloudCare had all ports protected, which is a good first step. I then attacked my test system using 30 app-specific exploits generated by the Core Impact Pro penetration testing tool. I was disappointed that AVG CloudCare blocked none of these attacks at the firewall. However, the attacks that delivered a malware payload were blocked by active antivirus protection.
The Bottom Line
Overall, AVG does a great job of balancing simplicity and complexity, and it has delivered an effective hosted endpoint protection solution that can be quickly deployed to protect small businesses. A very nice price helps make the buying decision easier, although it’s important to note that AVG won’t sell you CloudCare directly. You’ll need to work with one of their channel partners to purchase the service, and it’s those partners who will set the actual price, which is why we’ve quoted it as a range in this review.
Still, it’s an attractive solution, with an easy UI, solid protection, and excellent alerting and reporting to simplify ongoing management. Larger organizations, however, will likely be better served with an alternative platform and feature set allowing multiple admins to work more effectively with larger numbers of endpoints.