For comprehensive system protection with minimal performance penalty, ESET NOD32 Antivirus System is a solid, affordable solution. I tested NOD32 for Workstations on a variety of systems, including Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition, and Windows XP. ESET offers home, small business, and enterprise editions. ESET also makes versions for a variety of OSs and email server products.

NOD32 for Workstations consists of five modules residing on the client system, each of which performs a separate function. All use a single virus-scanning engine using ESET's proprietary ThreatSense technology. On my test systems, this kernel took up a little over 24MB of system memory with all five modules enabled. Each of the five modules has several configuration options and can be enabled or disabled separately by an administrator, offering flexibility in customizing NOD32. The On Access Monitor (AMON) module monitors the file system. AMON can check files when they are open, executed, and created. Document Monitor (DMON) monitors Microsoft Office document types, such as .doc, .xls, and .ppt files, whether on the file system or in email. Email Monitor (EMON) monitors Microsoft Outlook email. Internet Monitor (IMON) monitors POP3 email and HTTP connections, and the NOD32 module provides an on-demand scanner.

ESET schedules automatic updates to the NOD32 antivirus engine, and a system-tray notice informs users when the engine is updated. While I was testing the program, I received updates daily. For Enterprise Edition users, the NOD32 LAN Update feature lets administrators download updates to a central location, then distribute them to protected systems to minimize Internet traffic. NOD32 Enterprise Edition also includes Remote Administrator, a central console that lets administrators deploy the client to remote systems. This is a real time-saver when you need to deploy hundreds of clients.

During my testing, I noticed no significant performance penalty imposed by any of the modules. The only time I noticed NOD32's scanning activity was while opening Word documents several megabytes in size, and the delay was normally about two seconds. HTTP scanning is so fast and transparent that I forgot I had enabled it in IMON until I encountered a virus-laden Web site by accident. Microsoft Outlook email scanning with EMON and POP3 email scanning with IMON are fast as well, though I was a bit disappointed by the lack of IMAP email support in the IMON module.

For virus detection and isolation, NOD32's ThreatSense engine is solid; I went to several Web sites known for silently delivering malicious files, and each time the ThreatSense engine thwarted the attempt to deliver malware to my computer, showing a bright red alert screen. The alert screen is a necessity in a world where pop-up windows abound and users often close them without reading. NOD32 alerts can be sent by the client via SMTP or using Windows messaging, and the NOD32 Enterprise Edition offers automatic and on-demand reporting, giving administrators a comprehensive view of each workstation's virus protection activity.

The NOD32 system works well on 64-bit Windows systems, a feature I'm pleased to find in an antivirus application. Overall, NOD32 is a compelling antivirus solution for protecting a few systems or several hundred.

Summary
NOD32 Antivirus System for Workstations

Pros: Fast, reliable scanning and detection; small memory footprint; customizable modular design
Cons: No IMAP email support
Rating: 4 ½ diamonds
Price: $675 for 15 users
Recommendation: Good for organizations that need comprehensive virus protection with high performance and minimal impact on workstations.
Contact: ESET * (866) 343-3738 * www.eset.com