Has Symantec learnt from its Norton 360 mistakes?

Today, Symantec released Norton 360 Version 2.0, but I wonder whether the security giant has learned from its past mistakes?
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Today, Symantec released Norton 360 Version 2.0, but I wonder whether the security giant has learned from its past mistakes?

Is it better to over-promise and under-deliver or vice versa? For me personally, I think it's wiser to over-deliver in the hope a customer will come back for more, but this doesn't appear to have been the case for Norton 360.

Read the comments to the blog posted a year ago about Norton 360 Version 1.0 and you'll see what I mean.

Back then Symantec promised to unite storage management and security for the small business with antivirus, identity protection, firewall, automated backup, online backup, 24-hour support, PC Tune-up and more all wrapped up in one product. It was, you could say, a "simple all-in-one solution". This year the features have expanded a little, but according to Symantec's vice president of product management, Tom Powledge, performance is the key.

"The amount of RAM we use in the background is right about the same [as the previous version of Norton 360]. Scan times are lower, boot times are lower, the UI [user interface] launch time -- the time it takes IE [Internet Explorer] to launch -- are all better in the order of 10 to 15 percent better," Powledge told ZDNet.com.au.

Symantec claims it should only take 34 seconds to boot your machine when using Norton 360, 1.7 seconds to launch the user interface, and that it only consumes 7-10 MB of RAM. On all fronts, it claims to perform twice as good as the "industry average".

I hope for Symantec's sake this is true, because according to this blog, there are at least 40 users of Norton 360 who won't be back for version 2.0.

Readers complained that once they had installed Norton 360 version 1.0, their PCs experienced severe performance troughs. Even faithful Norton antivirus users became annoyed after upgrading to 360.

Others complained that Live Update did not function properly, Live Backup only worked intermittently, and that Norton 360 in fact wiped out backed up data.

I tested out Norton 360 for about two months last year, and though I cannot attest to the more dramatic problems others faced, I found the automated backup function to be not-so-automated and un-seamless. The user interface was beautiful -- offering the sense of a central control panel -- but did it work when I hit the button to resolve the backup issues threatening my system? If only it worked as good as it looked.

It's unfair to compare Norton 360 with the free AVG AV software as some of the readers have, but at least with AVG antivirus, the signature updates are seamless and unobtrusive -- the way security updates should be. But as a user -- besides AVG offering a free basic version of its software -- I like it because it delivers on a simple promise, and not a fantasy of how information might be managed in the future.

Which brings me back to Symantec's habit of over-promising and under-delivering.

A telling feature of Norton 360 that indicates Symantec's promises have been overzealous is the online backup service. Sure, for AU$399, you can get protection as well as stuff 25 GB of data down the tubes and into its datacentre. But like one reader found out, what they don't tell you is the recovery rate: 17 hours per 1GB. With a 25 GB service, as the reader pointed out, it would take 18 days to do a full recovery.

Ironically, it was a Symantec storage architect that taught me about the concept of a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) -- an estimate of how long before your business falls over if you can't access your lost data. With an minimum possible RPO of 18 days, it makes the so-called online "backup" more of an archive than a repository you could rely on in a real life disaster.

So has Symantec learned from its mistakes? Let me know if your experience matches the promise or whether Symantec has over-promised yet again.

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