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Not an expert, but I always default to protection first - mainly because I don't have time to test every DAT. If McAfee make a mistake (as they did today with false positives), they're usually pretty quick at updating the DAT.
Mind you it helps that some time ago I got Executive permission to always deploy first and fix any problems later happy
We have about 1300 systems and I always install the DAT files when the server downloads them. Like the previous person, I also don't have the time to test DATs every day as I have other responsibilities.
Agreed with above. I have approx 20k devices right now and don't have time to test a DAT everyday. My management prefers as much automation as possible, so if there is a problem then I will deal with it then.