September 10, 2012, 10:49 AM — Security is no longer a one-machine affair. Most people today use two or more devices -- for example, you could be using a work desktop, a personal laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. And it's possible, if not probable, that you're using two or more operating systems, such as Windows, OS X, Android, iOS or Windows Phone.
No matter what devices you use, you can be sure of one thing: The bad guys are out to get you. There's a lot of malware out there, and it's targeting almost every operating system available. That means you -- and your family -- need multi-device protection.
In earlier days, protection for non-Windows devices didn't seem important. People believed that Macs were safe from attack, while smartphones weren't being targeted by malware. Today, though, it's clear that no matter what device you use, you need to make sure it's secure.
While there are a number of individual products out there that can help with that task, there are also several anti-malware suites that encourage you to think of security in a holistic way, rather than just device-by-device. For a single price, you buy protection for multiple devices -- for example, two Windows-based PCs, one Mac, an Android smartphone and an iPad.
These suites typically cost more than a single-OS version (which usually protects up to three machines), and so if you only use the suites to protect two devices, you may not save any money. However, if you're protecting five of them, the savings can add up quickly. For example, a copy of Norton 360 provides one year of protection for three Windows PCs for $59.99, while Norton 360 Everywhere, which offers protection for five devices (Windows, OS X or Android) costs $99.99.
But wait, there's more: Besides offering multiple pieces of software for a single price, there's a new way of managing the security on all of your devices -- from the cloud. A Web-based management interface lets you see which devices are protected by which software, install software directly from the site, and in some cases remotely configure the protection on various devices.
In this roundup, I examine four such suites: McAfee All Access, Norton One, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012 and Webroot SecureAnywhere Complete. (There are other suites, such as Kaspersky One, that include multi-device protection but don't include a common Web-management interface and therefore aren't included in this roundup.)
I installed the appropriate versions on a Windows-7 based PC, a Mac running OS X 10.7.4, and a Motorola Droid X smartphone with Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread). Since I don't own an iPhone, the iOS apps were tested by Computerworld staffers Johanna Ambrosio and Valerie Potter.