BullGuard came to prominence as bundled protection from a number of desktop suppliers some years ago. It’s developed a lot since then and now offers, arguably, one of the most complete protection suites on the market.
It starts with the core modules you’d expect to see in any Internet Security (IS) suite: Antivirus, anti-malware, anti-spam, a two-way firewall, parental control and browser protection. On top of these, though, it adds a good backup module, PC tune-up and a vulnerability scanner.
The front end has been restyled and the seven main modules each have their own tiles in the home screen. Strangely, this screen isn’t quite wide enough to hold them all and isn’t resizable, so you have to scroll the set back and forth to get to all the tiles, which is an irritant.
Still, each tile itself leads to a separate status and control pane, all of which are straightforward to use, and there’s a separate Settings dialogue to tailor the program to your needs.
Not that you need to spend long tweaking the settings. Most defaults are sensible enough and the application applies basic checks, including a run of its tune-up module, automatically.
Once installed, small status panels slide into view bottom right each time the software automatically grants access to applications trying to get at the Internet. We find it reassuring to know about these checks, but you can turn them off if they bother you.
The tune-up module looks for temp files it can remove from browsers and the like, but also defragments the registry and looks for broken registry entries – all useful housekeeping tasks to help keep levels of junk data down.
The vulnerability scanner spots applications which are known to be vulnerable to particular kinds of attack, rates them for severity, checks to see if there are outstanding updates available for them and recommends action to be taken on each. It runs automatically and can be scheduled to scan at convenient times.
Backup is usually an afterthought in IS suites, but the BullGuard offering is pretty thorough. You can create backup profiles for different sets of files and can choose file categories, like documents, photos and music, or select individual files or folders.
You can back up to an external drive, or online to the 5GB of storage provided with BullGuard IS 2014. More is available and reasonably priced. Backups can be run manually or to a schedule you create. Finally, and unusually, you can define the number of backups kept, so they cycle and don’t fill up your backup media.
Our scan test showed a fair turn of speed, scanning 835,969 files from our 30GB basket in 1 hour 12 minutes, to give a scan rate of 191.6 files per second. This is well up the scale, though the number of files examined is much higher than virtually all the other IS suites we’ve reviewed.
Repeating the test, to see how well the software fingerprints examined files, saw it look at 578,966 in just over 52 minutes, so the program made a useful reduction. Again, though, it’s not as good as, for example, ESET Security 6, which went from 113,619 to 11,956 in our two test runs.
Copying 2GB of data without and with a system scan running in the background produced only a 10 per cent speed hit, which is very good, but isn’t reflected in the results from AV-Test, the German security testing laboratory.
AV-Test’s latest group test of home AV products running under Windows 8 rates the software at 15.5/18.0, a more than respectable score. The winners of the group managed a perfect 18.0/18.0, so perhaps the lab will have to beef up its tests.
The three categories which make up the final result are Protection, Performance and Usability. BullGuard IS 2014 scored 5.5/6.0 in Protection against malware, fighting off 100 per cent of pre-existing threats and dropping only 3 per cent over two months when faced with zero-day attacks.
It also did very well on Usability, scoring 5.5/6.0. In other words, it gave no false warnings on websites and none while installing and using legitimate software, though it did throw up five false warnings when running system scans.
From our own experience with a lightweight program called Stickies (network-enabled sticky-notes), BullGuard appears to block the program each time it does a major update and has to be told to whitelist it again. Stickies makes no registry entries, so this may cause the confusion.
The final category, Performance, is where the package dipped, earning 4.5/6.0. This measures the impact of the software on its host system and although lower than its other results, it’s still well above the average for the group.
You can buy a 3 PC or 5 PC licence, though it’s a little surprising you can’t add extra licences above the 5 PC level – not without opening a second account from a different email address. Although BullGuard is working on a business version of its software, you’d think it would be easy to manage extra licences within the same account.
There’s no Android support in this package, though BullGuard does make a Mobile Security application for £20 and a mobile backup utility, the latter of which is a free download.
BullGuard Internet Security offers a range of cover usually only found in top-of-the-range IS suites from other providers. It makes a lot of sense to include comprehensive backup facilities in a security suite, so your data is safely stored off your machine, as well as protected from infection. A 3 PC licence with all this flexibility is very good value at £50, so this package scoops one of our Best Buy awards.
Manufacturer and Product
BullGuard Internet Security 2014
PC only (free Android backup)
Backup online, tune-up, vulnerability scanner
Number of devices covered