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PCMag.com Software Product Guide

CyberSight RansomStopper

Your antivirus or security suite really ought to protect you against ransomware, along with all other kinds of malware. There might be an occasional slipup with a never-before-seen attack, but those unknowns rapidly become known. Unfortunately, ex post facto removal of ransomware still leaves your files encrypted. That’s why you may want to add a ransomware protection utility to your arsenal. The free CyberSight RansomStopper stopped real-world ransomware in testing, but can have a problem with ransomware that only runs at boot time.

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RansomStopper is quite similar to Cybereason RansomFree, Trend Micro RansomBuster, and Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta. All four are free, and all detect ransomware based on its behavior. Since they rely on behavior, it doesn’t matter whether the ransomware is an old, known quantity or a just-created zero-day attack. Like RansomFree, RansomStopper uses bait files as part of its detection methodology. However, RansomStopper hides its bait files from the user.

Getting Started

Installation went quickly in my testing. After the download, I completed the process by entering my first and last name and email address. Once I responded to the confirmation email, the product was up and running.

The product’s simple main window reports that “You are protected from ransomware.” Buttons across the bottom let you view security alerts, processes RansomStop has blocked, and processes you’ve chosen to allow. Another button lets you check for updates, if you didn’t select automatic updates during installation. Simple!

CyberSight also offers a business edition. Added features include email alerts, centralized administration, and detailed reports. The business edition costs $29.99 for a single license, though the price drops to as low as $10 per seat with volume licensing.

Ransomware Protection

When RansomStopper detects a ransomware attack, it terminates the offending process and pops up a warning in the notification area. Clicking the warning lets you see what file caused the problem. There’s an option to remove programs from the blocked processes list—along with a warning that doing so is a bad idea.

Waiting to detect ransomware behavior can sometimes mean that the ransomware encrypts a few files before termination. When I tested Malwarebytes, it did lose a few files this way. Check Point ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware actively recovers any encrypted files. In my testing, it did so for every ransomware sample. ZoneAlarm’s only error was one instance of reporting failure when it had actually succeeded.

For a quick sanity check, I launched a simple fake ransomware program that I wrote myself. All it does is look for text files in and below the Documents folder and encrypt them. It uses a simple, reversible cipher, so a second run restores the files. RansomStopper caught it and prevented its chicanery. So far so good.

Caution, Live Ransomware

The only sure way to test behavior-based ransomware protection is by using live ransomware. I do this very cautiously, isolating my virtual machine test system from any shared folders and from the internet.

This test can be harrowing if the anti-ransomware product fails its detection, but my RansomStopper test went smoothly. Like ZoneAlarm and Malwarebytes, RansomStopper caught all the samples, and I didn’t find any files encrypted before behavioral detection kicked in. Cybereason RansomFree did pretty well, but it missed one.

I also test using KnowBe4’s RanSim, a utility that simulates 10 types of ransomware attack. Success in this test is useful information, but failure can simply mean that the behavior-based detection correctly determined that the simulations are not real ransomware. Like RansomFree, RansomStopper ignored the simulations.

Boot-Time Danger

Keeping under the radar is a big deal for ransomware. When possible, it does its dirty deeds silently, only coming forward with its ransom demand after encrypting your files. Having administrator privileges makes ransomware’s job easier, but getting to that point typically requires permission from the user. There are workarounds to get those privileges silently. These include arranging to piggyback on the Winlogon process at boot time, or set a scheduled task for boot time. Typically, the ransomware just arranges to launch at boot and then forces a reboot, without performing any encryption tasks.

I mention this because I discovered that ransomware can encrypt files at boot time before RansomStopper kicks in. My own fake encryption program managed that feat. It encrypted all text files in and below the Documents folder, including RansomStopper’s bait text file. (Yes, that file is in a folder that RansomStopper actively hides, but I have my methods…)

I reverted the virtual machine and tried again, this time setting a real-world ransomware sample to launch at startup. It encrypted my files and displayed its ransom note before RansomStopper loaded. From my CyberSight contact I learned that they’re “testing several solutions” for this problem, and that an update in the next few weeks should take care of it. I’ll update this review when a solution becomes available.

RansomFree runs as a service, so it’s active before any regular process. When I performed the same test, setting a real-world ransomware sample to launch at startup, RansomFree caught it. Malwarebytes also passed this test. RansomBuster detected the boot-time attack and recovered the affected files.

To further explore this problem, I obtained a sample of the Petya ransomware that caused trouble earlier this year. This particular strain crashes the system and then simulates boot-time repair by CHKDSK. What it’s actually doing is encrypting your hard drive. Malwarebytes, RansomFree, and RansomBuster all failed to prevent this attack. RansomStopper caught it before it could cause the system crash—impressive! To be fair to the others, this one is not a typical file encryptor ransomware. Rather, it locks the entire system by encrypting the hard drive.

Querying my contacts, I did learn that boot-time ransomware attacks, including Petya, are becoming less common. Even so, I’m adding this test to my repertoire.

Other Techniques

Behavior-based detection, when implemented properly, is an excellent way to fight ransomware. However, it’s not the only way. Trend Micro RansomBuster and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus are among those that foil ransomware by controlling file access. They prevent untrusted programs from making any change to files in protected folders. If an untrusted program tries to modify your files, you get a notification. Typically, you get the option to add the unknown program to the trusted list. That can be handy if the blocked program was your new text or photo editor. Panda Internet Security goes even farther, preventing untrusted programs from even reading data from protected files.

Ransomware crooks need to take care that they’ll be able to decrypt files when the victim pays up. Encrypting files more than once could interfere with recovery, so most include a marker of some kind to prevent a second attack. Bitdefender Anti-Ransomware leverages that technique to fool specific ransomware families into thinking they’ve already attacked you. Note, though, that this technique can’t do a thing about brand-new ransomware types.

When Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus encounters an unknown process, it starts journaling all activity by that process, and sending data to the cloud for analysis. If the process proves to be malware, Webroot rolls back everything it did, even rolling back ransomware activity. ZoneAlarm and RansomBuster have their own methods for recovering files. When the anti-ransomware component of Acronis True Image kills off a ransomware attack, it can restore encrypted files from its own secure backup if necessary.

Give It a Try

CyberSight RansomStopper detected and blocked all my real-world ransomware samples without losing any files. It also detected my simple hand-coded ransomware simulator. And it blocked an attack by Petya, where several competing products failed.

RansomStopper did exhibit a vulnerability to ransomware that only runs at boot time, but my sources say this type of attack is becoming less common, and CyberSight is working on a solution. Other free products had their own problems. RansomFree missed one real-world sample, and Malwarebytes let another sample encrypt a few files before its detection kicked in. RansomBuster fared worse, missing half the samples completely (though its Folder Shield component protected most files).

Check Point ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware remains our Editors’ Choice for dedicate ransomware protection. It’s not free, but at $2.99 per month it’s also not terribly expensive. If that still seems too steep, give the three free utilities a try, and see which one you like best.

Software Reviews | Computer Software Review

MSRP: $7.00



at

Bottom Line: Human resources (HR) software and management system BambooHR is not the cheapest option but you get what you pay for, namely, well-organized, visually appealing tools that are simple to set up and run. An open API allows the software to be integrated with a company’s existing HR tech vendors, and the performance review function fits with the way more companies are working.

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Apple Pay Cash

Getting in a bit late on Facebook Messenger, Google Wallet, and PayPal’s action, Apple Pay Cash is the latest peer-to-peer payment system from a tech giant. Apple’s mobile operating system has long had a tie-in with your credit card, thanks to the Apple Wallet app. Starting with iOS 11.2, however, the new Apple Pay Cash service lets the company play an even greater role in your finances. For those who are passionately dedicated to the Apple ecosystem, it has an appeal. But if you want to pay someone who doesn’t have an Apple device, you’re better off with a competitor, like Venmo, that offers cross-platform options, as well as more advanced payment features.

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What Is Apple Pay Cash?

Since iOS 8.1, Apple Wallet has let you pay participating stores and websites from your iPhone, touch-free, using a credit card that you connect with the service. It hasn’t, however, been able to let you pay friends directly, as you can with Facebook Messenger, Google Wallet, PayPal, Venmo, and some bank apps. Unlike the previous Apple Wallet functionality, with Apple Pay Cash, you can actually store money in an Apple account, rather than just using Apple Pay as a conduit for a credit or bank card.

Getting Started With Apple Pay Cash

If you haven’t already done so, you first need to download and install iOS 11, specifically 11.2. You can force the update by visiting Settings > General > Software Update. If not, a slider switch in the Wallet & Apple Pay section of Settings lets you enable Apple Pay Cash. Once you slide this switch, you have to enter your Apple ID and password and accept a legal agreement stating that the services are provided through Green Dot Bank. The terms point out that Apple Pay Cash comprises two services: a virtual payment card and the funds transfer service.

Pay Cash works with every Apple phone back to the iPhone 6, and on iPads starting with the Air 2 model. If you have a MacBook with Touch ID, you can use Apple Pay Cash, or you can connect an older Mac to your iPhone and pay that way. The service also works with all versions of the Apple Watch. Androids and other non-Apple devices are not supported.

Note that you’ll only be able to send money to other iOS users who have accepted the agreement, and you both have to have two-factor authentication set up for your Apple ID. Two-factor authentication provides additional security, but it’s stricter than the other payment services’ setup requirements. Note that setup also requires re-entering your credit card digits.

After I completed these steps, I was asked to add a debit card so that money could be transferred to my new bank account. You don’t have to do this to use the service, though—I didn’t. In all, however, the setup isn’t more involved than it is with Venmo, though Facebook Payments is easier than either.

Using Apple Pay Cash

As with Facebook Messenger’s Payments app, you send money via the Apple Messages app; the option is in the app tray at the bottom of the Messages’ screen. Just tap the A icon to open it. You then see a dollar amount that you can increase or decrease, and you can switch between paying and requesting. Venmo and Google Wallet require you to open their separate apps to make payments; so that’s a plus for Facebook and Apple, in that you access payments from an app you’re probably using regularly already.

When I tapped Pay to send $1 to a colleague and then hit the Send up arrow, I had to approve the transaction with a Touch ID finger press (of course, iPhone X users will use Face ID). For sending this dollar, I paid a 3 percent fee (the same as with Venmo and other services), but that’s because the payment was via credit card. If you use a bank debit card, however, you can avoid that fee. The chat entry says Pending until the recipient receives the funds.

You can also use Siri to pay someone, but that’s something also offered by Venmo. Apple Pay Cash, thankfully, doesn’t by default share your every transaction with a special-purpose social network, as Venmo does. With Venmo, unless you change privacy settings, any of your contacts can see exactly who you paid in a feed of transactions. Some may like like this, but it seems like an invasion of privacy to me. However, Venmo offers a couple of important advantages over Apple’s system: You can scan a QR code to verify your payee, and you can attach notes along with a payment. Venmo also lets you pay amounts smaller than $1, Apple’s minimum. Google Wallet, also available for iOS, adds the ability to split payments among multiple recipients.

If you receive money from a contact, it goes into your Apple Pay Cash virtual cash card. You can use that balance either by dumping it back into a connected bank account or to pay for something else via Apple Pay or Apple Pay Cash.

Apple Pay Cash, Venmo, and can all be used to shop at online retailers; PayPal (which also owns Venmo) may have the upper hand here, as the leading internet payment service. The biggest advantage of Venmo, PayPal, and Facebook Payments, however, is that they’re platform-independent—with any of them, you can send money to anyone, regardless of the operating system they use. And with any of them, you can make and receive payments from a web browser—not so with Apple Pay Cash. If you’re using Apple’s system and want to pay an Android user, you’re going to have to hand over dirty old dollar bills, for now.

Should You Pay the Apple Way?

Apple Pay Cash offers a relatively easy and secure way for iOS users to make peer-to-peer payments. But the tech giant is a bit late to the party, and, as with many things in Apple’s history, the service lives in too closedof an ecosystem. In addition to that, Venmo, our Editors’ Choice payment app, offers a richer slate of payment options. If and when Apple adds the ability to pay Android users, we’ll update this review.

Software Reviews | Computer Software Review

MSRP: $7.00



at

Bottom Line: Human resources (HR) software and management system BambooHR is not the cheapest option but you get what you pay for, namely, well-organized, visually appealing tools that are simple to set up and run. An open API allows the software to be integrated with a company’s existing HR tech vendors, and the performance review function fits with the way more companies are working.

Read Full Review

Golden Frog VyprVPN (for Mac)

Using a virtual private network is a great way to keep the bad guys, the three-letter agencies, and even your ISP from snooping on your web traffic. Golden Frog VyprVPN is a particularly competitive VPN service, and it shines on macOS with excellent speed scores and a strong offering of advanced features, as well as a smart tutorial for new users. It’s an excellent VPN for Mac, but it’s edged out by Editors’ Choice winners for macOS VPN: NordVPN, Private Internet Access, and TunnelBear VPN.

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What Is a VPN?

When you connect to the internet, your web traffic may not be as secure as you’d like. Your ISP, the NSA, anyone on the network, and whoever controls the Wi-Fi router you’re connected to can potentially monitor your activities or even redirect you to phishing pages. Consider this the next time you log on to the Wi-Fi network at Starbucks: how do you know Starbucks operates this particular hotspot? This is why you need a VPN.

When you switch on a VPN, it’s a different story. Doing so creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server operated by the VPN company. Your web traffic travels through the tunnel, secure from peeping eyes.

From the VPN server, your traffic heads off to your desired destination. That means anyone watching would see your traffic as emanating not from your computer, whose geographic location can be divined via IP address, but from the VPN server. That’s an additional layer of anonymity.

This may sound like paranoia, but reporting has revealed that the NSA has access to most internet traffic. Also, Congress gave the green light to ISPs to start selling anonymized user data. A VPN defeats, or at least greatly frustrates, these adversaries.

Pricing and Plans

Golden Frog offers VyprVPN for free for 30 days, after which you’ll need to start paying. Other VPN services have free options that stay free; AnchorFree Hotspot Shield and TunnelBear are two excellent examples. Most free VPNs have some kind of data limit or other restriction, however, though they generally perform well within those limits. Notably, the Opera browser now ships with a robust VPN built in, for free.

If you decide to spend money on VyprVPN, you’ll have to chose between the vanilla version and the higher-end plan. VyprVPN costs $9.95 per month, but only allows three simultaneous connections. That’s probably enough for one person living alone, but certainly not for someone whose family involves more people or gadgets. Those people will want to spring for VyprVPN Premium, which costs $12.95 per month; allows up to five connections; and grants access to two additional features, the Chameleon VPN protocol and VyprVPN Cloud.

That’s on the high side for a VPN service. Private Internet Access, which offers an extremely robust network of servers, costs only $6.95. TunnelBear VPN is just slightly more at $9.99 per month. Both have offerings comparable to VyprVPN’s.

The additional features that Golden Frog reserves for the highest VyprVPN tier require some explanation. The Chameleon VPN protocol is an encryption protocol that the company says is harder to detect as VPN traffic and therefore harder to block. The company recommends that users in China, or anywhere else that attempts to block access to certain parts of the internet, should use this protocol. If that’s not your thing, the macOS client also supports L2TP and IPsec, as well as my preferred option: OpenVPN. In addition to being open-source code—and therefore scrutinized for errors by a community of volunteers—OpenVPN also tends to be faster and more resistant to disconnection. Note that the VyprVPN app for iPhone only supports the IKEv2 protocol.

The other premium feature is VyprVPN Cloud. This is a specialty feature that allows you to access your cloud services on Amazon Web Services (AWS), DigitalOcean, and VirtualBox via the security of a VPN. It’s certainly a niche feature, and it’s a bit of an odd one at that.

Note that Golden Frog also offers Cyphr, a free encrypted chat app for Android and iOS, as well as Outfox, a VPN service specifically for gaming. NordVPN doesn’t offer a chat service, but it does have specialized servers for using BitTorrent, connecting via VPN to the Tor anonymization service, and more besides.

Features and Privacy

I go into detail about VyprVPN’s features and performance in my review of VyprVPN for Windows. I’ll summarize the important points here.

Golden Frog makes much of the fact that it owns all of the servers used for VyprVPN. There’s something to be said for this, since it gives the company far more control over the hardware customers rely on to keep them safe. This amounts to over 700 servers, which is comparatively few, however. Presumably, competitors are able to field more by using a mixed of owned and rented servers. Most VPN services offer over 1,000 servers and in the case of Private Internet Access, over 3,000. A surplus of servers means that you’re less likely to find yourself using an overcrowded server where each user gets a small slice of the bandwidth pie. The more servers, the fewer people per server; the fewer people per server, the better the performance.

VyprVPN does, however, have a respectable roster of server locations. These include some 70 cities and regions in six continents. I am pleased to see that in addition to such typical VPN locations as the US and Europe, VyprVPN also has several servers in regions often ignored by the industry, such as Africa and the Middle East. The company also offer servers in areas that tend to have repressive control over internet access: China and Russia, specifically.

A large number and diverse distribution of server locations means two things. First, that if you’re looking to spoof your location, you’ll have lots of options. Second, if you are a world traveler, you’ll have an easier time finding a nearby server. The distance between yourself and the VPN server has an important impact on performance.

The VyprVPN app comes loaded with some excellent advanced features. You can configure the VPN to connect automatically if you’re using an untrusted Wi-Fi network. You can also block local (LAN) traffic to your machine while connected to the VPN, ensuring that other infected devices aren’t sneaking peeks at your activity.

One thing that VyprVPN won’t do is block ads when running. That’s not a huge loss on a desktop computer where there are many excellent in-browser alternatives such as Privacy Badger—my ad-blocker of choice. It’s more of a detriment on Android because Google does not allow ad-blockers in its app store.

Golden Frog is headquartered in Switzerland, which, according to the EFF, does not have mandatory data retention laws. Golden Frog’s privacy policy states that the country’s “favorable privacy laws reflect our mission.” The company does not log DNS requests or the content of your traffic. Golden Frog does, however, log the source IP address, connection time (start and stop), and the total volume of traffic. It retains this information for 30 days. The company says it will not “sell or otherwise release identifying information, unless ordered to do so by a court of competent jurisdiction in the matter.” That’s an important caveat, but is also par for the course among VPN services.

Note that if you are keen to use BitTorrent over VPN, you can do so with VyprVPN. However, keep in mind that downloading copyrighted material can still be detected through other means.

Hands On With VyprVPN

Golden Frog does not offer a VyprVPN client through the Apple App Store. Instead, you’ll have to download it from the Golden Frog site and install it yourself. Unlike other VPN clients, VyprVPN has a brief tutorial that points out major features and lets you configure some of the client’s core abilities. I like this approach, since many customers may not be aware of all VyprVPN has to offer.

The client itself is a single window, the top half of which shows your network traffic in a color-coded graph—blue when it’s secured by VyprVPN and red when it is not. It seems very much at home on macOS, although it did not take advantage of the Touch Bar on the 15-inch 2016 MacBook Pro I was using for testing. Three toggles let you configure VyprVPN to connect automatically on untrusted Wi-Fi, block malicious sites, and activate the app’s kill switch. This last feature automatically shuts down internet communications should your VPN disconnect accidentally.

The large button at the bottom connects you to the fastest available server by default. Typically, this is a server that’s geographically near to you. Click the map pin icon on the connect button to open the full server list in a separate window. Here, you can filter the servers by region and view the ones you have marked as favorites. A search box at the top lets you quickly cull the list, and the app shows ping times to the left of each entry.

While VyprVPN looks quite good against the macOS backdrop, Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear is even better looking. This application is brightly colored and filled with friendly bears. It’s got a touch of whimsy, but is also extremely easy to use, which helps make it an Editors’ Choice winner.

Opening the Preferences window reveals more precise controls. You can, for example, designate apps that must use the VPN connection. That’s handy, as it can let you avoid slower speeds or outright blocking for certain activities. There’s also an option to block all LAN traffic, which is a rarely seen feature. The Advanced section is truly advanced, letting you set Route Delay time in seconds, Log Verbosity, and Maximum Transmission Units, among other options that the average person probably shouldn’t mess with.

By default, VyprVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol and VyprDNS. Both of these can be changed from the settings menu as well.

Netflix is not a fan of VPNs, since you can use them to spoof your location and access content locked for other regions. However, I had no trouble streaming movies when connected via VyprVPN. Keep in mind that this could change at a moment’s notice. If you’re concerned about losing access to Netflix, I suggest sticking with short-term VPN subscriptions.

Speed and Performance

When you’re using a VPN, your data jumps through more hoops than usual. The result is usually increased latency, as well as reduced upload and download speeds. But we have found through years of testing that not all VPNs are created equal, and that some have greater negative (or, surprisingly, positive) impact on performance.

To really determine the performance of a given VPN service, I would have to test multiple times a day at different locations and times over the course of many days. That’s not a viable option. Instead, I opt to take a snapshot, and then I compare the difference between average speeds and latency results and find a percent change.

I first run this test while connected to a nearby VPN server and using a nearby test server. I run the same tests again, but while connected to a VPN server in Australia and a test server in Anchorage, Alaska. This second test is to evaluate how the VPN performs when connected to far-flung international servers. All of my speed test data is gathered using the Ookla speed test tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

In my domestic VPN testing, I found that VyprVPN had the largest increase in latency among Mac VPNs, at 22.1 percent. To be fair, most other VPNs are clustered around the same figure, although Private Internet Access had the least impact, at only 8 percent. VyprVPN redeemed itself in the download speeds test, where it slowed downloads by just 6.9 percent. dragged downloads down by 21.1 percent, but TunnelBear actually improved downloads speeds by 22.1 percent — the only VPN to improve downloads I’ve yet seen for macOS. Unfortunately, VyprVPN dropped the ball in upload speeds, where it had the biggest impact among Mac VPNs. It reduced upload speeds by 33.2 percent. In this same test, Private Internet Access reduced uploads by only 6.1 percent.

VyprVPN fared a bit better in the international tests. Here, it increased latency by 171.4 percent—the best score I’ve yet recorded for macOS testing. It nearly beat KeepSolid VPN Unlimited in the download test; VPN Unlimited reduced download speeds by 11 percent and VyprVPN by only 13.2 percent. It continued doing well into the upload test, where it slowed uploads by 17.8 percent, another new record for macOS testing.

In general, you will almost certainly not notice any significant slowdown when using VyprVPN. In fact, you might even notice things run a little quicker in some circumstances! With its collection of top scores in some important areas, it’s a strong contender for speed on macOS. But then again, racked up truly outstanding numbers on Windows, where it improved downloads by over 400 percent in some cases.

PureVPN didn’t perform as well in my macOS testing. As such I consider it to be the fastest VPN service for Windows. I haven’t reviewed enough VPNs on macOS to make a similar judgment.

One for the Short List

Golden Frog offers an impressive service with VyprVPN, and it’s especially good on macOS. The client is equal parts understandable and powerful, with a tutorial for new users and powerful settings for those already comfortable with IT matters. While it lacks ad-blocking and has comparably few servers, it nevertheless earned several top speed test scores in our tests.

It’s an excellent choice for macOS users, but we continue to recommend our Editors’ Choice winners for macOS for their individual merits. NordVPN has an excellent collection of features, Private Internet Access has an unbeatably robust server roster, and TunnelBear VPN is the easiest and friendliest VPN for macOS.

Freshsales CRM

Freshsales CRM (which begins at $12 per user per month, with a free plan available) is an affordable customer relationship managegment (CRM) platform that lets sales professionals better understand their customers. Its entry level free plan is a great choice for small businesses new to the concept of CRM, and it also acts as a long-term free trial for companies deciding which product to choose.

The software is very easy to use and takes care of many manual tasks, such as logging phone calls, tracking emails, and customer research. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of our three Editors’ Choice products—Apptivo, Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, and Zoho CRM—all of which offer more third-party integrations.

Freshsales CRM Pricing

Freshsales has four pricing tiers: Sprout, Blossom, Garden, and Estate. The Sprout plan is free and includes built-in phone, email integration, basic reporting, mobile apps, and integration with Freshdesk, Google G Suite, and Zapier. The Blossom plan ($12 per user per month) adds to that pipeline management, workflows, email sync, templates, MailChimp integration, and more. Next up, the Garden plan ($25 per user per month) adds advanced reporting and forecasting, territories, and more. Finally, the Estate plan ($49 per user per month) includes reports dashboards, multiple pipelines, lead scoring, and other advanced features. All plans include 24/7 email support and 24-hour phone support on weekdays.

Users can take advantage of the 30-day free trial (no credit card information required) by clicking on the sign-up button on the top right of the screen or the “sign up for free” button in the middle. Input your name, email, company, and phone number, and create a custom domain (name.freshsales.io). That field auto-fills as your company name, but you can change it to whatever you want. Once you submit that information, Freshsales opens with a tour of the software that outlines the main features. After the tour, you’re prompted to invite your team. Finally, you need to activate your account via email and then create a password. Remember your domain name, as that’s how you’ll have to log in to your account.

Contacts, Leads, Deals, and Reports

After you log in, you see your list of leads, which includes a sample record. Along the top of the screen, you can see how many days remain in your free trial, click to upgrade to a paid account, create a new record (lead, contact, account, etc.), compose an email, view notifications, and manage account settings. Along the left side of the screen, you can access other parts of the CRM. Underneath leads are contacts, accounts, deals, conversations, calendar, reports, dashboard, and settings. You’ll also find sample data in contacts and accounts, and sample tasks in the calendar. The tasks reminders were sent to my email, seemingly to encourage me to play around with the software.

Freshsales uses the lead as the entry point. Once a lead is converted to a contact, the associated company information populates into an account record; add the website URL and Freshsales automatically adds public information about the company, including its website, logo, social media, company size, address, and other details, just as it does with contacts and leads. When we added PC Magazine as account, it pulled in the correct street address, phone number, and social media accounts.

When you add or update a new record, a panel opens on the right side of your screen so you can input the information without navigating away from whatever you were working on. You can also upload leads from a CSV file, but you can’t connect it directly to another CRM. Users can also capture leads by embedding a form on their website.

When you add a new lead or contact and include their email address, Freshsales auto-enriches the profile by pulling in associated Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles. This way you can see what your leads and contacts are interested in and what they’re talking about, so you have a starting point.

You can filter leads, contacts, and accounts by any field, as well as by lead score, and based on when they were last contacted. Users can also conduct bulk actions, including sending an email and assigning records to different sales reps.

The Deals section of Freshsales is set up in a Kanban-style view, and deals can be dragged and dropped to different stages along the pipeline. You can customize the stages in the pipeline and change the order to your liking.

Freshsales offers several communication tools, including email templates, campaigns, and integrated phone and voicemail, and call recording. The idea is to be able to conduct all of your outreach without leaving the software or having to input updates manually. You can save files (up to 20MB) from your computer or cloud storage, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, in the software too and add them as email attachments. Users can track email open- and click-rates for any messages sent through the software or via connected email accounts; there are also metrics available for email templates so you can gauge which are the most successful. A team inbox feature syncs with generic company email addresses, such as info@company.com, so that those emails can be tracked, and new leads are automatically added to the system.

You can connect any IMAP-compatible email account to Freshsales, including Gmail, Office 365, and Zoho Mail. This will sync the inbox and sent folder. On the Conversation tab, you can view an “Awaiting Response” folder so you can see where you need to follow up. Freshsales has a built-in calendar and task manager and can also sync with Google Calendar.

Automating manual tasks is a big part of Freshsales, and that includes the ability to set up workflows. You can set up triggers and conditions for any record in Freshsales. For example, you can have it create a task when a lead sends an email. Or you can set it up so that an email is sent to a contact after a certain amount of time passes without communication.

Freshsales also has a full-featured mobile app for Android and iOS that sales reps can use in the field to access information and update records after meetings and phone calls. Once a contact becomes a customer, all relevant information can be shared with customer service agents if you’re also using Freshdesk support. This way, agents have the most up to date information.

Reports are available for conversations, tasks, appointments, and leads, contacts, and accounts. There are several built into the software, but you can also customize your own. The reports can be viewed in chart form and exported as a CSV or a PDF file. You can even schedule reports to be emailed monthly, weekly, or daily.

Freshsales has some third-party integrations, including the email and calendar programs mentioned above, as well as with , , one of our Editors’ Choice products in this category, which is also affordable. Or you should consider Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, which is more expensive but highly customizable.

HomeDNA

HomeDNA offers an array of DNA tests that can give you information on your ancestry, paternity, and even the genetic makeup of your pets. It also processes raw data from other DNA services for a fee. The ancestry tests break down your gene pools and family migration patterns, and offer a trove of information about your results. HomeDNA is pricier than many of the other services I’ve reviewed, but it offers more detailed results than most. It’s more closely related to National Geographic’s Genographic Project than the Editors’ Choice award-winning 23andMe, a service that has a deeper focus on information about you and your generation.

Setup and Interface

There are a handful of HomeDNA ancestry tests available: GPS Origins Ancestry Test ($199); DNA Origins Maternal Lineage ($69); DNA Origins Paternal Lineage ($69); HomeDNA Starter Ancestry Test ($69); and Vitagene Health Report + Ancestry ($99). There’s also a $79 option that lets you upload raw data from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA.com, or National Geographic.

For this review, I took the GPS Origins Ancestry Test, which HomeDNA says is so advanced that it may pinpoint the town or village where the different groups of your ancestors met. The test analyzes 800,000 autosomal genetic markers, 862 reference populations, and 36 gene pools.

When I ordered the test kit, I just had to fill out contact information, and choose the shipping method. HomeDNA provides free shipping if you’re willing to wait 7-12 business days for your kit to arrive. Otherwise, you can pay $7 for two-day shipping or $14 for overnight service.

HomeDNA’s extraction process is the simplest of the DNA kits I’ve tested. The kit contains four cotton swabs and two envelopes. I swabbed each cheek twice, placed the swabs in an envelope, sealed it up, and placed that envelope into the prepaid envelope. All of the other kits I’ve tested required placing the sample in a stabilizing liquid, and not eating, drinking, or chewing gum for at least 30 minutes prior; HomeDNA had no such warning.

As is always the case, your DNA sample does not have your name on it, rather a unique barcode, which maintains your privacy, while also making the sample easier to track as it moves through the process. Before you ship away your sample, you must register your kit online; otherwise, you won’t be able to view your results.

The prepaid envelope will take up to 10 days to reach the lab, and the results take another two to three weeks. My results were ready within that time frame.

DNA Reports and Extra Features

While I never received a confirmation email that my sample had made it to the lab, I did get a notification when my results were ready. After you log into HomeDNA’s website, you’ll find a link in the top right that leads to your account and results pages. You can either view the results or download the raw data.

HomeDNA displays results in a different manner than AncestryDNA and 23andMe. While the latter two focused on countries, such as Ireland and England, HomeDNA looks at gene pool regions. In my case, I had three gene pool regions: Fennoscandia (19.9 percent), Southern France (18.9 percent), and the Orkney Islands (15 percent.) Fennoscandia consists of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and a part of Russia known as the Kola Peninsula, and the Orkney Islands are off the northern coast of Scotland. Southern France apparently experienced multiple waves of migration. It was interesting to see where my ancestors had been before settling in Ireland and eventually migrating to the United States. HomeDNA doesn’t go as far back as the National Geographic Genographic Project, which traces you all the way back to Africa, but it has a lot more detail about that “in-between” stage.

You can also view your DNA migration patterns on a map. It’s meant to show how your maternal and paternal lines migrated and eventually co-mingled to create your ancestral line. You can zoom in and out, move the map around, and click on the various stops along the migration to learn more about what your ancestors experienced. Mine showed one group of ancestors moving from Denmark to Ireland to England, and the other from Estonia to Finland to Russia. It’s not clear how they would come to meet each other, though. I wish there were more of an explanation as to why the migration patterns don’t converge, especially since I’ve taken several other DNA tests, I know that my ancestors ended up in Ireland, Scotland, and England. You can take three optional questionnaires about your personal history and that of your birth parents to give HomeDNA more data and help the company refine future DNA tests.

What HomeDNA doesn’t do is search for genetic matches in its database, like many other competitors, including 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA. It also doesn’t have family tree software, so if you’re looking for that, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Ancestry is our top-rated product for genealogy software, and if you take a DNA test, you can incorporate the results into your family tree, as well as any genetic matches. If you’re just looking for information about your past, HomeDNA is a fine choice.

HomeDNA also offers an array of other types of DNA tests including health and breed-identification tests for dogs, healthy weight and skin care tests for humans, and a health report test that offers personalized nutrition and fitness advice.

If you need help during the process or with interpreting your results, you get assistance from HomeDNA’s blog and FAQ. The company also has an 800 number that you can call with any questions. HomeDNA lacks the breadth of informative articles about researching your past and understanding your DNA results that its competitors possess.

A Close-Up Look at Your Ancestors

HomeDNA, like the National Geographic Genographic Project, takes a deep look at your ancestors, though it doesn’t go all the way back to Africa. It does show where your ancestors lived post-Africa, and where they migrated over time. It offers a deeper look at where you came from, but not as much detail about your makeup. For that, you’re better off going to AncestryDNA or our Editors’ Choice 23andMe, both of which offer more information about your personal genetics.