Endpoint Security vs. Antivirus Software: Which Does Your Small Business Need?

Nov 9, 2023

Endpoint security and antivirus software may have similar features but are quite different. Knowing which is more relevant for your business could save you time and money.

Shephalii KapoorWriter
Endpoint Security vs. Antivirus Software: Which Does Your Small Business Need?

Selecting between endpoint security and antivirus software depends on several factors, such as the network size, the need for security control, and the presence of remote workers. Given the similarities in their features, businesses often get confused between the two solutions and make the wrong choice of security investment.

Endpoint security software, commonly referred to as endpoint protection software, helps IT administrators detect malicious network activities and protect the network and all its connected devices. On the other hand, Antivirus software is a part of endpoint security, that detects and removes viruses and malware from a certain device—personal computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

This article discusses endpoint security vs. antivirus software for their similarities and differences so you can select the right one for your business goals. We've also included each category's top five products based on verified software reviews. Read more.


What is endpoint security software?

Endpoint security, or endpoint protection software, enables system administrators to monitor and investigate vulnerabilities across all endpoints, including servers and connected devices. The solution, which typically includes antivirus, firewalls, and anti-malware tools, examines files, processes, and system activities to identify potential threats.

Endpoint security tools allow users to authenticate logins made from all new endpoints and support remote software deployments and updates. This type of software is primarily intended for business or commercial use rather than individual purposes.


Example of automated deployment in endpoint security software (Source)

Core features of endpoint security software

  • Activity tracking: Monitor activities on individual endpoints, such as servers and computers, within a network. The feature enables system administrators to track user behavior, including file access and application usage on their devices. It also helps users to record system events, such as login attempts and configuration changes, and identify and respond to security threats proactively.

  • Application security: Protect individual applications and software running on endpoints. System administrators can use this feature to prevent unauthorized software from execution as it allows or blocks specific applications based on predefined lists. The feature also helps them scan installed applications for known vulnerabilities and security patches.

What is antivirus software?

Antivirus software allows users to scan, prevent, and delete viruses and other types of malware from a device, including laptops, desktops, smartphones, and servers. The software scans files on your device’s memory to identify the presence of malware and mitigate various cyber threats, including phishing attempts and ransomware attacks. Most antivirus tools installed on a device can be configured to automatically scan files and directories in real time.

Antivirus solution typically runs as a background process, scanning servers, computers, and mobile devices for possible malware risks.


Example of an administrator portal in antivirus software (Source)

Core features of antivirus software

  • Anomaly and malware detection: Identify abnormal behavior patterns, including unusual network traffic and unexpected system resource usage, on a computer or network. The platform helps users identify deviations in the normal system behavior or potential malware and remove the malicious software.

  • Threat response: Identify a malicious activity or a security threat that could possibly compromise the network and compose a response to mitigate the threat. Whenever a potential threat is detected, the software may isolate the suspicious file or program, preventing it from causing harm, remove the infected files, and generate alerts to notify the administrator.

What are the key differences between endpoint security and antivirus?

Both endpoint security and antivirus solutions protect businesses against cyberattacks. However, there are some key differences between the two:

Endpoint security softwareAntivirus software
PurposeEndpoint security leverages anti-malware, firewalls, and device management tools to protect all endpoints, including servers and desktops, connected to a network against malicious attacks.Antivirus is an endpoint security solution focusing on individual endpoints instead of the entire network. The software helps users protect individual computers against malware, viruses, and phishing attacks.
FunctionalityEndpoint security goes beyond signature-based threat detection and includes proactive features, such as behavior monitoring and vulnerability assessments, to prevent multiple future threats.Antivirus software scans files and programs for known vulnerabilities. It uses the traditional signature-based threat detection method to identify malware. The software is typically reactive in nature, focusing primarily on identifying and removing existing threats.
CustomizationEndpoint security solutions allow for greater customization of security policies, settings, and features to align with a business’s unique security goals.As compared to endpoint security solutions, customization in antivirus software is more user-centric, allowing individual users to configure settings on their own devices only.

What are the similarities between endpoint security and antivirus?

Despite the distinctions, both software categories have some common similarities. These include

  • Real-time scanning: Both endpoint protection and antivirus software solutions offer real-time scanning capabilities to identify and prevent threats as and when they occur. This feature helps users prevent malware from infecting the entire system or endpoint device. Real-time scanning in both tools monitors various aspects of your system, including file activities, downloads, and process execution.  

  • Anomaly detection: Anomaly detection in endpoint security and antivirus software identifies unknown threats and flags potential threats based on deviations from normal or expected user behavior. Endpoint security tools often include behavioral analysis, network traffic analyses, and machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies. Antivirus software, on the other hand, may use techniques such as sandboxing for anomaly detection, where suspicious files are run in a controlled environment for behavior monitoring.

  • File quarantine: Both endpoint security and antivirus software can isolate suspicious files, applications, and processes. When a file is quarantined, it is locked away to prevent it from causing damage. This is a safety mechanism used to prevent malicious code from spreading harm to the system. The feature is essential to maintain the security and integrity of your devices and endpoints.

Endpoint security vs. antivirus: What are the typical use cases? 

Endpoint security and antivirus software solutions serve different purposes, and the right choice depends on the nature of your business and specific objectives.

Endpoint security softwareAntivirus software
Endpoint security is primarily designed for large businesses looking to monitor many endpoints. The software is especially beneficial for organizations that allow employees to connect to the corporate network remotely. If your business has a large bring-your-own-device (BYOD) fleet, investing in an endpoint security system would be a better idea.Antivirus is best suited for individual devices and small businesses that do not have complex network requirements. The software runs in the background of each device that users install it on and safeguards the system against potential malware threats. If your business has few devices to protect and you want to protect individual devices connected to a small network, antivirus software can do the work for you.

Once you’ve decided which software to use, head to our endpoint protection and antivirus category pages to find a list of products and software reviews from verified users.

What are the benefits of endpoint security vs. antivirus?

Below are some common benefits of using endpoint security and antivirus software:

Endpoint security benefits

  • Simplifies security management. Endpoint security solutions offer administrators complete visibility and control over all endpoints via a centralized platform, allowing them to set policies, monitor activities, and respond to threats from a single location. These also enable the creation and enforcement of security policies for firewall settings, device access, and other important security aspects.

  • Protects valuable data. Endpoint security systems protect data residing in individual endpoints, such as computers and servers, by providing security features such as access control, data encryption, and behavioral analysis. This data may include personal identifiable information (PII), including the names and contact information of individuals and financial data.

  • Prevents insider threats. Endpoint protection tool continuously monitors user activity on devices and records actions, such as network activity and data transfers. It uses machine learning algorithms to establish normal behavior for each user and triggers alerts in case of any deviations. All these help prevent insider threats, including data theft, malicious insider attacks, and privilege abuse.

Antivirus benefits

  • Boosts the performance of devices. Antivirus software identifies and removes malware that can consume system resources and slow down performance. The tool enhances system performance by eliminating viruses and other types of malware and freeing the central processing unit (CPU) and memory resources.

  • Facilitates real-time protection. Antivirus tools often include real-time scanning of files and processes as they are assessed, opened, copied, and executed on a computer. These files may include documents, downloadable attachments, and executable files. The software also offers memory scanning to identify any suspicious processes that might be running in real time.

  • Offers automatic updates. Antivirus software regularly and automatically updates its virus definition database to recognize and combat emerging threats. This helps users protect their devices against the latest malware and neutralize threats as and when they emerge.

How to choose between endpoint security and antivirus

Below are the key considerations when selecting endpoint security or antivirus software solutions for your business.

  • Assess your security requirements. Before investing in either of the tools, identify your business’s security needs. Consider your primary concerns—data breaches, malware, or insider threats, the type of data you handle, and the number of devices or endpoints you need to protect. If you are looking for a tool to protect your device against known malware and viruses, such as trojans, worms, and spyware, consider a simple solution, such as an antivirus. However, if you need a tool with comprehensive security features, such as firewall and intrusion detection, to protect many endpoints, endpoint security could be the right fit. 

  • Analyze your IT environment’s complexity. Your choice of software solution depends greatly on the number and types of endpoints (computers, mobile devices, and servers), network infrastructure, and the presence of remote workers. A complex network infrastructure with multiple locations and diverse network configurations may require an endpoint security tool to provide users with a defense strategy. The same applies if your business has mobile workers accessing the network from different locations and devices. An endpoint protection tool is well-equipped to secure these remote endpoints.

  • Consider your budget. Budget is another important factor influencing your choice while looking for endpoint security or antivirus software solutions. Antivirus software is generally cost-effective and is often based on a per user or per device annual subscription. However, endpoint security tools are pricier due to their broader feature set. While evaluating the budget factor, consider integration, maintenance, and training expenses that might impact your finances.

5 top-rated endpoint protection software

These products are listed in alphabetical order. (Check how we selected them at the end of this article.)

*Analysis performed October 2023

5 top-rated antivirus software

These products are listed in alphabetical order. (Check how we selected them at the end of this article.)

*Analysis performed October 2023


For both software categories, we highlighted the top five products with the highest average user ratings. To be included in this list, the products had to:

  • Have at least 20 unique product reviews published on GetApp, with an average rating of 3.0 or higher (as of Oct. 26, 2023).

  • Meet our software market definition for endpoint protection and antivirus software:

    • Endpoint protection: Endpoint protection software gives IT professionals the tools they need to protect their networks and assets from targeted attacks, malware, and other threats.

    • Antivirus: “Antivirus software handles the detection and removal of computer viruses using anomaly detection, threat response, and real-time monitoring capabilities.”

*To present the most up-to-date information, the product information below shows the latest real-time ratings, which may differ from the ratings values at the time this report's analysis was conducted, since new reviews may have been left in the meantime.

About the author

Shephalii Kapoor

Shephalii Kapoor is a writer at GetApp. She helps small businesses identify the right software for their needs by analyzing user reviews for top-rated software products. Prior to Gartner, she worked as an assistant content manager at InfoEdge India Ltd. She has also worked in company law, aviation, and real estate. She is a published author and has contributed to various magazines and websites. During her free time, she enjoys reading.
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