Virtualize Your Internet Connection with BufferZone
BufferZone from Trustware brings virtualization to your internet connection helping prevent trojans, bots and other malware from getting on your computer. Even with a couple of small issues, it is an interesting take on how to protect your computer and your family while online.
I got to take BufferZone for an evaluation run over the last several weeks. Like the other software I try, I put it through the paces in the real-world computer lab of the family PC in the living room. BufferZone Pro creates a virtual space that anything written, modified or downloaded while on the internet is saved to. In a Windows-world, your registry, your "My Documents" and the rest of the computer is buffered from the internet. It runs on Windows XP and Vista. The $39.95 annual subscription will license the software for up to 3 PCs. If you want to kick the tires for a month, you can download a free trial.
After installation, you add programs that you want to run in BufferZone. Once installed, the icon on the desktop changes to show that it will run in the virtual space. Should you want to not run in the virtual zone, you can right-click and run in the normal, non-virtualized mode.
Even on my less-than-new family PC, there was a slight slowdown but in general the only way we really knew BufferZone was running was the thin red outline that surrounds any app running in virtual space - including anything that is launched by the apps you've selected for BufferZone. We loaded both Firefox and Internet Explorer in the zone and I cut the kids loose.
With Firefox, we found that the forward and back buttons never worked while virtualized in BufferZone. IE did not have this problem, so the kids ran IE as the default. I checked the logs and saw that it did prevent suspicious activity and prevented access to confidential files.
We also found the need to regularly set up a clearing of the virtual zone so that updates to Firefox or Firefox plugins and security patches for Internet Explorer could be installed.You will need to occasionally run your protected apps outside the BufferZone to allow the installs, then after clearing the virtual space, the updated applications will install into the virtual environment.
My oldest child did struggle a bit with downloading a file for school (from the school server) into (the virtual) "My Documents" but when opening OpenOffice, not seeing the file in (the real) "My Documents" - so there is a bit of a learning curve for moving between the virtual and real spaces on your computer - for the less patient among us, this could be a frustrating experience.
Overall, it was a good piece of software. I like the thought of virtualizing my internet connectivity as a means of helping protect my computer instead of relying on software that has to be updated after the threat is found, analyzed and neutralized. Also, on an older PC, I don't have the overhead of running an entire OS in a virtual space for the same purpose.
Wired: easy install and set up, protects up to 3 computers with a virtual space.
Tired: Firefox forward/back buttons don't work in BufferZone; learning curve to move between the virtual and real storage on the PC.