Security applications are just to frustrating

A little while back Microsoft did a survey of customers and asked why they don't use certain security applications. I've yet to fully look at the findings. But I'd venture to guess that ease of use would be at the top of the list. What I mean is that security software and hardware many times cause more trouble than most people feel they are worth. They tend to not take into account that losing private data – such as financial records and passwords is much more of a hassle than the frustrations brought on by security applications. Although at times I fully understand why users feel this way. Recently I've had to once again deal with this type of aggravation. The sad fact is that security application vendors haven't made things easier for users in many cases. In fact with the new operating system Vista from Microsoft. That company has gone out of their way to make a product that will keep support email and phone lines busy for years. Customers just want products that are going to work out of the box. They don't want to have to read huge help files. Your average user doesn't have the time to find solutions to the problems that security software and hardware can bring about. These people don't want to have to spend time in online help forums waiting for replies to hopefully resolve their problem. Users just want things to work. Programmers and others will tell you this just can't be. There are to many variables or their company doesn't give them enough time and money to code things in this manner. You'll get all kinds of excuses. But in most cases you will never get solutions.

Most customers turn to vendor support before looking online or seeking out a help forum. Some companies over the years have started official support forums. Other companies offer real time customer support online. You will see some cases where a mix of support options are available. In many cases when your using the phone to call support you will be told to visit the vendors website for support. I always find this funny when dealing with an ISP or a computer manufacturer. Don't these idiots realize that in all most all cases people are calling because they can't access the internet? So support services and help FAQ's on a website aren't going to do anyone much good if they can't access them. The support process and security software or hardware not working as user expect are two very big reasons that people stop using these applications. If customers see their broadband connection is cut in half or more when using a security application. They aren't going to keep using that security solution. If these same users have problems accessing the internet, visiting websites and / or using other software because of the security they have in place. These customers are going to turn the security product off. If this same solution isn't easy to use the customer will shut it off as well. Many not realizing that they must fully uninstall the security application before it's effects are no longer being felt. Meaning just because it's not being shown in your taskbar doesn't mean that the security service is fully disabled. Some products even leave nasty residue after uninstalling them. Norton in the past has been bad about this. To the point that you must use a special uninstaller to rid your machine of all traces of this product before installing some of their competitors products.

So what has gotten me up in arms and frustrated? Several experiences recently have gotten me aggravated at the state of security offerings. What I experienced isn't anything that I don't see reported in help forums on a daily basis. I guess that is what makes me frustrated the most. That vendors haven't listened to feedback and they have not adequately addressed customer concerns. You should be able to use a software firewall, antivirus or router without having to take a performance hit with your internet connection. You should be able to use your operating system without having to bang your head against a wall and be asked 20 questions every 2 seconds. If you upgrade your operating system to Vista when it comes out – you won't be able to easily use your pc without having to answer questions every few minutes. Your not going to be able to install programs you could easily install previously. All because Microsoft feels they are trying to secure your machine better from yourself. The concept of freedom of choice has been taken away. If you wanted to uninstall these components your not going to be able to. They are all integrated into the operating system. It is obvious that Microsoft learned nothing from their antitrust legal woes.

As I just mentioned you should be able to use a software firewall or antivirus software without your internet connection becoming slower. Although with two well known vendors I've used for years this isn't the case. ZoneAlarm firewall users for years have reported that using this product seems to decrease their bandwidth. At times I've been able to reproduce this while at other times I have not been able to. Once again I've ran into this issue. I've also recently seen this same problem when using Kaspersky antivirus on Vista. While Kaspersky will most likely state their antivirus isn't currently coded for use with Vista. Other customers who use their product have reported seeing this problem on operating systems that are currently supported by Kaspersky. Although when I started a thread on this no one else reported seeing this. There is one thread in the same forum I posted in that states Kaspersky was causing problems with their internet connection. This should come as no surprise since Kaspersky has decided to include a feature similar to a basic firewall within their antivirus product.

In regards to speed related issues when using ZoneAlarm. I was one of the first people to contact them in regards to this issue the last time it became a major topic. In the end I was told by the company that they were unable to reproduce the issue. I've always found this hard to believe when we have seen a large group of customers reporting the same exact thing. That when they have ZoneAlarm installed on their pc the bandwidth on their broadband is cut in half if not more. If you have a good number of people complaining about the same problem. Then it is fairly logical that this is an issue that should be addressed. Not just swept under the rug and ignored. Yet in many cases this is exactly what software vendors do. In the end this hurts their reputation and in many cases the bottom line. Time and again we have seen Zone Labs suffer from negative publicity. In many cases if they would have handled things differently the damage could have been avoided. Yet in many cases they don't see things as seriously as their user base. What they feel are minor issues are in fact very major problems that should be addressed.

The fact is with the latest version of the ZoneAlarm Security Suite ( 6.1.737.000 ) I can easily reproduce an issue with my broadband connection. Without ZoneAlarm installed and just running my Linksys WRT54G wireless router I can get close to the speeds I should be getting. Granted my ISP is having trouble providing full bandwidth lately. I pay a premium for a 6000/512 connection. Late at night and early morning are the only times I get close to my cap and nowadays that is 2000 short on the download side. When the ZoneAlarm firewall is active on my machine it more than cuts my connection in half. I know that if I contact my source at ZoneLabs they will just tell me that they can't reproduce the problem. Or I'll have to jump through several thousand hoops trying to prove that I'm right. I've been down this road many times before. And honestly from past experience I don't feel Zone Labs is even listening. Why? Because feedback I gave them 2 years ago in regards to usability has been ignored. Meaning the same silly problem still exist in their antispam solution. Which is exactly the problem most companies have, They aren't listening to feedback given to them by customers. Maybe this is do to the fact that they feel that customers are just to stupid and don't get it. Maybe it's because the programmers keep telling management they can't give the customers what they want. It isn't possible this or that. Coders are known for thinking most end users are mindless morons with no clue. And that the only logical people in the world are the programmers themselves. Which always makes me laugh. Because these people who swear they are so logic based seem to be clueless in regards to basic common sense and logic.

So now I'm at the point the average user is at many days. Which is sort of funny because I'm supposed to be the person who helps resolve these type of issues for people in regards to the ZoneAlarm firewall. This is part of the Team Z mission. Many days I feel I fail in this mission. Do to the fact that the team no longer really communicates as a team. It's also frustrating when I'm trying to find solutions for customers and have no resolution to offer them. Because I'm getting the same type of answer users get when they email support. It is extremely obvious to me that one major issue ZoneAlarm customers run into is the bandwidth problem. It has been a commonly reported issue for many years now. Your going to tell me no one has thought to sit down with a few major ISP's to try and find a solution? No one has been able to find a settings issue that may cause this? Or a certain combination of software and hardware that results in this problem?

All I can tell you is that users are fed up. They don't want to be a hacker or virus writer target. But the applications that are made to protect them end up causing aggravation and frustration. In the end many of them feel it is just easier not to use these products. They feel it is just easier to back up data now and then. And if they get hit by some internet nasty they will just reformat and start from scratch. I'm currently one of those users who has to make a choice. Do I accept less bandwidth – even though I pay a good amount of money each month for this connection to be more secure? Or do I just hope that my router will keep me safe and watch out what I download and where I visit? Although that strategy won't keep me safe. Do to the fact that even good websites can become infected and cause harm to visitors. Anyone remember Nimda? But right now this is the choice I'm faced with. I've done enough testing to confirm that this is in fact an issue. I have done real world download test that show that bandwidth is reduced. When using Kaspersky Antivirus Personal Pro latest edition alone with no ZoneAlarm installed. I am seeing a reduction in bandwidth. With just the ZoneAlarm firewall installed I'm seeing the same results. When I'm just using the router alone this does not occur. I've seen this result on two machines. One is running the beta OS Vista, the other machine is running a clean install of XP Pro with SP2 all the latest updates are installed as well. As many readers here know I just built this new machine. So this isn't an issue with hardware in my opinion. It may be a settings issue or some type of conflict between hardware and software.

To me it obvious that vendors aren't taking customer frustration seriously. Microsoft has proven to me that they just don't get it. Vista is going to be nothing but an aggravating mess to deal with if it gets released in it' s current form. Neither Zone Labs or Kaspersky seem to be taking user reports of lower speeds when using their products seriously. Support is of course going to be the usual frustrating run around. Fifty questions asked with the answer always being sorry we can't seem to reproduce this problem. The answer from the customer is to either stick their middle finger up in the air and say – can you reproduce this? Actually in reality many customers just try and do some research and then switch products. There are to many choices out there today for users to put up with a software vendor who won't take their complaint seriously. Companies still don't seem to get word of mouth can and will affect the bottom line. This is a lesson Zone labs has yet to learn. Kaspersky should realize that word of mouth and positive reviews of many security forum users has finally made their product a popular choice.

Running without basic security in place hasn't been an option for many years now. Users who are online – no matter what type of connection they use. Should have a good software firewall and antivirus in place, even when a router is in use. They shouldn't have to be punished with less bandwidth just because they want to be safe from the bad guys of the world. Useability and functionality are problems with all software. I've always personally felt that these problems are compounded when using security software and hardware. If it's not easy to use and adds more problems to a customers life. These people aren't going to use these products. Which then leads to them becoming infected and then becoming a problem for everyone else. It's time that ISP and security vendors started working together. To address some of the more common problems seen in relation to using security products and their ( the ISP's ) services.

To the credit of Zone Labs. They have in fact over the years tried to improve customer support. Team Z was a part of that effort. Adding an official online forum, live customer support on their website and trying to improve email response times. They also have phone support that is fee based. Many customers have given mixed reviews of this effort.

Kaspersky has always had very good toll free phone support. They also have several official help forums where solutions to problems can be found.

The unfortunate thing with both these vendor's forums is that they don't keep archives. So when helpful solutions are found by forum users they may not be on the site in several months time. I've taken this up with Zone labs several times to no end. They just don't seem to see the logic in keep archives of their forum available. Very shortsighted way of looking at things in my opinion and not very customer friendly. If your looking to reduce support cost. This is one key way of doing that.

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