Will an updated interface and new features tempt you to switch security software?
Panda has updated its Cloud Antivirus security software to version 3 and it has extra features and a new interface. There are free and Pro (25) editions. If you don't need the full protection of a complete security suite, this lightweight application could be all that is required to keep your Windows PC safe when accessing the internet.

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The software has been given a Windows 8 makeover and it features live tiles on the home screen that update with useful information. The Scan tile enables you to perform a full, critical area or custom scan, where you can choose the folders. On our test machine, a critical areas scan took nine minutes, which isn't particularly fast, but isn't so slow as to be an annoyance.

New to this version is the ability to create scheduled scans. Several can be created, and they can be daily, weekly or monthly. There are options to scan critical areas, full or custom scans. You can choose to scan compressed files, look for spyware, hacking tools, potentially unwanted programs and so on. Panda Cloud Antivirus has real-time protection too, and it analyses the behavior of programs and can block suspicious ones.

A process monitor checks that all the processes background programs and services are okay, allows you to see which access the internet and are potential threats, and then monitors the URLs they access. A USB vaccine facility enables USB flash memory drives to be vaccinated, preventing malware. A Rescue kit enables you to create a USB rescue drive, which in turn can be used to boot the PC and remove any nasty viruses that prevent the PC from starting.

Panda Cloud Cleaner can also be run from within Cloud Antivirus. This is a free virus scanner and clean-up tool that it downloads and installs. However, having two separate antivirus programs is confusing and, unless there is some technical reason preventing it, it would be better to combine the two products into one. Why would you want to have to scan the PC twice?

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Cloud Antivirus 3 has yet to appear in any tests, but www.av-test.org rated the previous version seventh out of 24 antivirus products when sorted by protection, beating many commercial security products. It was the highest rated free antivirus program, beating AVG and Avast. It scored very highly at www.av-comparatives.org too, so if past performance is anything to go by, Panda Cloud Antivirus 3 offers excellent security.

So far everything we've mentioned is in Cloud Antivirus Free. The Pro edition also provides a firewall and protection using public Wi-Fi networks, plus support. Turn on the firewall and it monitors all software that accesses the internet. To avoid unnecessary pop-ups, it automatically applies rules to known software. It's pretty good and additional rules for controlling internet access can be created, and it is easy to configure. There are home, work and public firewall settings.

Panda Cloud Antivirus Free is excellent and is recommended. The question is, would you pay 25 to add a firewall and support? It's the convenience of one program versus running Panda plus ZoneAlarm or Comodo free firewalls.