Wednesday, April 29, 2009

PC 'security as a service' gains global cloud footprint with free Panda anti-virus offering

Cloud computing's utility and power in everyday life reached a notable new milestone today with Panda Security's free PC security service.

This delivery and two-way malware detection-access model makes a ton of sense, so much so that I expect we'll be soon seeing the cloud model deliver of more than PC security and anti-virus/anti-spam services. The era of remote services for a slew of device support and maintenance -- of everything from cars to cell phones to home appliances -- is upon us.

Essentially anything that uses software and has network access can be supported efficiently and powerfully based on the Panda Security cloud model. Making the service free to home-based users is especially brilliant because it gains the Metcalfe's Law benefits of a valuable community to detect the malware, with the means to then sell the detection and prevention means to business and professional users. [Disclosure: Panda Security is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here's how it works, from Panda's release:
Consumers can download the free client protection product from ... The Panda Cloud Antivirus thin-client agent introduces a new philosophy for on-access asynchronous cloud-scanning. It combines local detection technologies with real-time cloud-scanning to maximize protection while minimizing resource consumption. This optimized model blocks malicious programs as they attempt to execute, while managing less dangerous operations via non-intrusive background scans.

Panda's proprietary cloud computing technology called Collective Intelligence, Panda Cloud Antivirus harnesses the knowledge of Panda's global community of millions of users to automatically identify and classify new malware strains in almost real-time. Each new file received by Collective Intelligence is automatically classified in under six minutes. Collective Intelligence servers automatically receive and classify over 50,000 new samples every day. In addition, Panda's Collective Intelligence system correlates malware information data collected from each PC to continually improve protection for the community of users.
Panda says the model demands a lot less of a PC's resources, 5% versus 9% for other fat-client AV software approaches. That means older PCs can get protected better, cheaper, and longer. Far fewer people will need to upgrade the PC hardware just to keep it free from viruses. It's about time! Poor security should not be a business model for sellers of new computers and software.

I'm going to try this service on Windows XP Home running on Parallels on my iMac Leopard. I'll report back on how it works.

As I said, I hope this model succeeds because it really is a harbinger of how cloud-based services can improve and solve thorny problems in a highly efficient manner that combines the power of community with scale and automation. This may go far in also dissuading the creators of malware because the bad things will be squelched so fast if a Panda model get critical mass that the effort is useless and therefore mute.

Panda Security, a privately held company based in Spain, could well see its services expand to include PC maintenance, support, remote and automated support, and even more SaaS applications and productivity services. I expect this burgeoning ball of PC services from the cloud ecology to become the real software plus services model. It will be very interesting to see which vendors and/or providers or partnerships can assemble the best solutions package first and best.

Incidentally, don't expect Microsoft to do this cloud-based security thing. It can't afford to kill off or alienate the third-party malware security providers by doing it all itself. Those days are long past gone. The third parties, however, can now stretch their wings and fly. And they are.

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