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Panda in the cloud

Panda Cloud Antivirus is notable as a free security solution for three reasons: Panda is a reputable security vendor, the program achieves its goal of freeing up system resources, and it's effective.

When it originally debuted, Panda Cloud Antivirus was notable as a free security solution for two reasons: Panda traded on its reputation as a solid security suite vendor making its first foray into the realm of freeware, and the program attained its goal of freeing up system resources by putting much of the program's heavy lifting in the cloud. Now we can add a third reason to the list: it's now known as an effective alternative to the security powerhouses.

When you open Cloud Antivirus, the main window lets you know whether you're safe or not with a big red or green icon. Cloud Antivirus works as other antivirus solutions do, offering a Quick Scan and a Custom scan for specific folder, files, and drives, but its ancillary features are exceptionally light. You can opt out of contributing anonymous data to the cloud, but that also opts you out of automatic threat management. There's a network connection proxy option should you need it, and a reporting feature that will show you what kind of threats have been detected and removed from your computer. You can filter the report by All, Last 24 hours, Last Week, or Last Month, and there's a Recycle Bin pane from which you can recover a false positive, should you need it. The modest level of tweaks and customizations have been hidden behind an obnoxious "flipping" screen that cheesily rotates when you need to access it, but they do provide choices in a clean UI that weren't available before.

Lightweight security from Panda Cloud AV

CNET Labs' benchmarks determined that Panda Cloud Antivirus Free 1.3 had a small but detectable impact on system performance. It slowed down boot time by just under eight seconds as compared to an unprotected system, while computer shutdown time was more than three seconds slower. However, Cloud Antivirus' virus scan time was a zippy 540 seconds on CNET's test computer, in the top five scan times from suites benchmarked this year. Cloud Antivirus' impact on Microsoft Office was disappointingly large, but impressively the program marked the least impact on the Cinebench test. Overall, the program could have had less of an impact on computer startup times, but does have a very fast scan and caused the least disruption to the Cinebench test.

Security Program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 42.5 11.28 n/a 917 180 780 4795
Panda Cloud Antivirus Free 1.3 50.12 14.8 540 1044 199 832 4790

*All tests measures in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

Despite still lacking some of the deeper customization heft that other free antivirus solutions have, most glaringly a scheduler, the program is not necessarily a bad choice for a stripped-down antivirus. It has added a full on-demand scan, and it runs at around 15MB of RAM when idle and around 60MB when scanning. It's a great choice for resource-conscious Netbook users. Panda Cloud Antivirus makes a decent, reasonable security choice for anybody looking to effectively balance security and system performance.

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