Shavlik’s Netchk Protect has one of the nicest interfaces that we’ve seen. It is bright, simply laid out and makes obvious what function does what. This makes it one of the easiest products to use.

It is a strange mix of products, though, combining anti-spyware with patch management, so you can scan a PC and choose which patches to apply, as well as clean it of spyware. It means that you can prevent some infections from getting a grip on your network by patching the software first.

Netchk starts by detecting available systems on the network, then copies a scan agent to each PC as required, where it conducts local scans. Future sweeps of the network update the agents as required. Although the service is left installed, it does not run as a full-time agent, only when scans are initiated from the server.

Running a scan on our test PC got good results and it found the majority of spyware on our system. The scan highlighted each form of spyware it found in an easy-to-read table and rated each infection by risk.

Its agent-less approach worked well for files on the hard disk, but it had trouble with processes loaded into memory; an agent can cope with this easily. There is also the extra burden it puts on the network. As each scan has to be initiated from the server, that is a lot of network traffic. The actual bandwidth overhead requirement might not be a problem, but only connected PCs will be scanned.

Without an agent running full time, there is no real-time protection or monitoring, so Netchk Protect can’t stop files from being installed on your PC. It is a cure rather than prevention. Not having an agent means that machines that leave the safety of the corporate network, such as notebooks, are not covered on the outside. Most companies would prefer some kind of active protection to make sure that spyware does not get the chance to take a foothold.

That said, its simplicity of use makes it an appealing product. Providing you marry it with proper web and email filtering, anti-virus and good gateway control, Shavlik Netchk Protect will do a good job.