Panda Security has released Cloud Antivirus, a malware-protection tool that mostly resides on a network cluster instead of your PC. The free tool just installs a small client on your computer to connect online. While a self-described beta, Cloud Antivirus could be worth much more than its free price by the way it cuts your risks and administration costs.
Traditional antivirus tools work by detecting suspicious activities on your PC and by researchers at your antivirus company identifying threats. In the former situation, the antivirus tool is supposed to step in to block malware even if the tool has no specific knowledge of that exact strain. More often, protection comes through updates from the security company, with the exact details of new attacks.
But both situations rely on communications between your PC and the antivirus company. If your PC identifies a new threat, the antivirus company can use that data to create a cure for you. If the company--or your PC--identifies a new threat, its next update can inoculate all users.
Even if you regularly schedule updates with a traditional tool, cloud-based antivirus software can always be more current, since its protection always comes from that company's servers. You can also save update hassles and time since the cloud servers manage everything. And since other clients are connected in the same way, if malware makes it through, the cloud will have quicker details about new attacks and cures.
Give Panda Cloud Antivirus a shot to see how it compares to your current solution, and keep an eye out for an upcoming, paid edition with additional features. Whether it fits your needs or not, expect future antivirus tools to work in a similar way, offloading your maintenance costs while improving protection.
Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco.