Antivirus in the cloud: Is remote security remotely secure?

Does it make sense to offload critical security tasks to a remote machine? We expore cloud security products and their benefits

Cloud computing: letting servers do the hard work so your netbook doesn't have to.

But does it make sense to offload critical security tasks to a remote machine? Is it wise to rely on something as potentially fickle as a network connection for your security, the protection of your files and your privacy?

In this feature, we explore the current state of cloud security products, their benefits and whether they have a place in the future of home computing for average users.

Our conclusion sits at the end of this feature, as you might expect, but there are two key advantages to using cloud-based antivirus:

No more definition files

The best way to allow digital swine flu to contaminate your machine is to not have an up-to-date definition file. Definition files are the databases stored by an anti-virus program on your computer that essentially tell your scanner what it's looking for. Problem is, if it ain't up to date, you ain't safe. With a good cloud-based AV product, however, these files are no longer needed, as all information is up-to-date online.

Outsourcing processing power

Almost every antivirus product we looked at used Web-based servers to process information. This is good news for netbooks in particular, which are often underpowered, with limited memory for running background processes. Netbooks were always supposed to be geared towards running Web apps, and the lightweight clients and Web apps we tested fit this ideal perfectly.

Which brings us to our guide. It's split into four key areas:

  • Complete real-time cloud-based protection
  • On-demand scanning and cleaning
  • Scanning an entire computer from a Web site
  • Scanning single files from a Web site

We begin with entrusting the cloud to protect your entire computer in real time...

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