Panda’s Cloud Office Protection aims to make it easier for SMBs to protect critical resources by moving management into the cloud. This new Advanced edition supplements the anti-malware, firewall and device controls of the base version with URL filtering, plus antivirus and anti-spam for Exchange servers.
In terms of value, the Advanced package is competitive. You pay a set fee per seat regardless of whether it’s a Windows workstation or server, and there are no extra costs for Exchange protection – you only need to purchase one licence for the host system. In a welcome move, Panda has also added support for OS X and Linux systems.
Installation is hassle-free. For client installation, the cloud portal provides a link to download the software agent; this can be downloaded directly or the link pasted into an email. The agent arrives preconfigured for your account, and automatically links up with the portal. It then joins the default group, where it receives the associated security profile.
Profiles determine when the agent checks the portal for updates and signatures. Antivirus settings can include archives and email, but bear in mind that this package doesn’t provide client anti-spam – this is available only for Exchange servers.
The firewall can be enabled for workstations or servers (or both) and custom rules created to filter traffic for selected apps. You can either block removable, optical, Bluetooth, image-capture and modem devices completely, or allow read and/or write access.
We tested using clients with Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Server 2008 R2 with Exchange. Deployment took no time at all and – as soon as the agent was loaded – the systems popped up in the portal with a default profile assigned.
During our testing, we moved the Exchange Server to a separate group, enabled mailbox and SMTP-level antivirus protection and set the anti-spam filter to tag suspect messages. That done, Cloud Office Protection Advanced worked transparently in the background, silently dealing with infected emails and spam. When we introduced a selection of genuine malware to our test clients, all threats were blocked, disinfected or the source files deleted. Manual scans can be initiated by users, but in most cases malware is handled without them needing to do anything.
Web filtering controls are robust, and Panda provides a list of almost 60 URL categories that can be filtered on a per-policy basis. These filters worked effectively in our tests, with few sites slipping past unnoticed. Device-level controls also worked effectively. Systems with a block policy received a pop-up message when a removable storage device was inserted. You can optionally offer users read-only access to external devices.
Speed isn’t one of the package’s strong points, however. System scans are slow, and a full system check of our Exchange host and its 46GB of files took almost an hour. This test system had a 2.4GHz quad-core Xeon CPU and 16GB of memory, and the software agent averaged 30% CPU utilisation. There are other areas that could be improved. The portal’s status screen is uninformative, with two small graphs showing detection activity, and a pie chart providing a breakdown of URL access distribution. The scheduledscan pane is a waste of space, only providing a link to another page for viewing scan activity.
Reporting isn’t a patch on the PC Pro Recommended package, Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business Core (web ID: 388453). However, you can view lists of all detections and web blocks, and create basic reports that can be exported to a range of formats including PDF. Another annoyance is that the agent software updates the portal with status and malware reports only every four hours. This is intended to minimise web traffic, but it’s not much use if your systems are under attack.
This causes other problems, since systems will respond to the request for an immediate scan job only when the agent next polls the portal. To circumvent this delay, we had to select the Panda system tray icon and manually request an update. Panda advised us that the next release will offer client updates every 15 minutes. It’s by no means perfect, but Panda Cloud Office Protection Advanced 6.81 makes up for many of its shortcomings with its low cost. Its cloud management is well suited to clients spread across different geographical locations, and while there’s scope for improvement, it’s easy to deploy, and its anti-malware and URL filtering performance is bang on the money.
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