Panda Cloud Office Protection Review

Many people will already know that Panda's consumer Internet Security products and the Spanish company's anti-malware suite was one of the first to herald the 'cloud' element of its detection. While having a reference of malware signatures held locally to detect infections, it also has fast access to a much more extensive database, held online. The company claims this technique ensures it can respond more quickly to new threats than from a local archive, even when regularly updated.

Panda's office offering uses the same AV engine as the consumer product, but with installation and configuration management at the network level, so an IT department can feed out and maintain IS coverage in an ordered and cost-effective way.

The company has a refreshingly relaxed attitude to licencing, allowing an extra five per cent over the total number of licences purchased. So, for example, with a 25-seat licence, you could add an extra machine, without the licence being rejected. Also, if you add extra machines to your licence pool part way through a year, you only have to pay a proportion of the full year's fee.

The installation of the code on each machine can be achieved by downloading it and installing it manually, giving machine owners a direct link so they can download it themselves or by running a distribution routine, which rolls it out across a network. The installer automatically removes old or rival AV engines by running those engines' uninstallation routines, of which Panda keeps a considerable archive.

The suite covers AV protection in emails, online protection when browsing and detection of malware introduced in other ways. As part of this, it offers centrally-based device control, so an administrator can limit the connection of USB drives or other external data storage, for two interrelated reasons.

The ability to introduce programs or data from a USB stick could compromise a system by introducing malware but, just as important, it also prevents individuals extracting data from a secure system and moving it off-site, without authorisation.

Interface

Settings for anti-malware, firewall and device control can be made individually or on the basis of arbitrary groups. You might like to divide up licences by department, for example, or have different profiles set for laptops, desktops and servers.

The interface on each client machine is minimal, much less comprehensive than the screens of the consumer product, but adequate for performing quick, full and custom scans. Firewall settings are made centrally from the control console, by the network administrator.

Under test, we did hit a rather unusual problem, which we hope has something to do with our particular installation. The console screens had a habit of displaying in Spanish, which, even with the assistance of Google Translate, was irritating. We suspect there's a language setting hiding somewhere.

Usability test results

We scanned a 30GB basket of assorted files and the Panda scanner took 30 minutes 20 seconds to check 276,318 files. This is over twice the time Norton 360 took to assess the same set of files, but Panda looked at more than twice the number of files, giving it a scan rate of 152 files/s, slightly higher than from the Norton product.

As we have said before, checking more files needn't necessarily mean the scanner has done a better job. It depends on the algorithms the software is using to assess the possibility of a file hosting malware. Looking at the AV-Test results, though, a bit later in this review, indicates that the Panda engine is very good at detecting both old and new threats.

It has a slightly heavier footprint than some, as shown by our file transfer test. Transferring 2GB of files between drives when scanning and when not scanning shows the PC taking just over twice as long, though of course you can reduce the effect of this by scheduling scans for meal breaks or overnight, if machines are left powered up.

AV-Test results

The AV-Test lab has looked at the 2012 version of the Panda Internet Security engine and scored it 14.5/18, a better than average result for all the suites it has covered this year. Breaking it down, it scores 5.5/6 for Protection, 4.5/6 for Repair and 4.5/6 for Usability. In the two months over which it was tested, it only dropped four per cent in protection against zero-day malware attacks and not a single per cent in either detection of new threats or more established ones.

In Repair, it scored 100 per cent in detecting rootkits and stealth malware, 82 per cent in removal of those threats and 46 per cent in removal of other threat components. This last figure is a bit below the average of 54 per cent. In Usability it showed a higher than average PC slowdown, which agrees with what we found, but it was well below average in generating false positives and only once blocked the installation of legitimate software.

Overall, the scores indicate that malware protection is a very strong feature of the Panda engine, though there may be a little inconvenience in running the software on a day-to-day basis.

Verdict

If you've used Panda's consumer IS suite, Panda Cloud Office Protection will appear very similar, though with centralised setup and control. Licencing is versatile and competitive, even before you start to haggle with your reseller. The AV engine itself tests out well in both AV-Test's evaluation and our own usability tests and the user interface, while being fairly basic, covers all the essentials and makes setup and licence maintenance easy, for a busy IT department.

Score: 8/10

Manufacturer: Panda

Test restults courtesy of AV-Test.org.