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Software Review: Panda’s New SaaS Enabled Endpoint Security Product for Small Businesses

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Small businesses want to take their company to the next level, increasing their customer base while also increasing revenues. But every small business also has to make sure that computers in their organization are secure. For a small business this is a tough task as some either don't have a full-time IT resource, or the resources they do have are stretched extremely thin. That's without mentioning the high cost of consultants. This has led to organizations looking for ways to become more efficient, not only with their budget, but also with the IT resources they have. This is where SaaS offerings come in. Investing in Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions has enabled small businesses to reduce their administrative, hardware, and power consumption costs.

Security vendor Panda, has recently announced a new SaaS security solution targeted at small businesses, Panda Managed Office Protection (PMOP). The product is an endpoint security solution, offering the typical antivirus and firewall protection for desktops, laptops, and even servers in your organization. The SaaS part of the solution is the management infrastructure, as you don't have to worry about installing servers to manage the database, reporting, or administrative functions. The management infrastructure and administrative interface is all in the cloud. Panda Managed Office Protection Administration Home Page
The PMOP endpoint protection agent will run on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 2003, Windows 2008, and even Windows Embedded Point of Sale (WePOS). The support matrix mentions support for VMWare virtualization, but no mention of Virtual PC or Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V support. With the growing popularity of Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, support for Hyper-V virtualization must come very soon.

Installation
For this article, I installed PMOP in the lab running on Windows Vista Ultimate. Setup was a breeze. Panda offers two options for the deployment of endpoint agents: either users can do the install, or through a silent distribution method that does not require user intervention. As is the trend these days, installation of PMOP will uninstall several competitive solutions if present on the machine. This is essential, as uninstalling security technologies is a big hassle.

Management
Management of PMOP is very simple with all administrative functions being performed from Panda's secure Web site. From there, you can create groupings for machines in your organization. Note that at least in this version there is no integration with Active Directory whatsoever which means that you can't take advantage of any groups of machines you may already have in AD. In addition, you can create multiple protection profiles, each with distinct settings for antivirus, firewall, updates, and scans. You can also designate who has access to the administrative Web site. Currently, there are three administrative roles: Total Control, Security Admin, and Monitoring.

One area that may be of interest to service providers is the ability to manage small business deployments of PMOP. Although PMOP is very easy to use, those organizations who really don't want to worry about managing endpoint security can delegate this responsibility to a trusted third party. This is a great investment on Panda's part, as it allows customers to continue to work with their chosen security partner if they so desire.

PMOP Agent StatusOn the agent side, there are not many functions for an end-user to perform other than launching scans (quick, full or custom). From previous work doing endpoint security planning, this is important as many organizations want to take all decision-making and customization out of the hands of the end user. 

A very nice touch that has been enabled by Panda is direct access to their malware encyclopedia. When malware is found, the agent will link you directly to get more information about the piece of malware. This is nice and helps avoid having to go and perform a search.

Protection
PMOP doesn't provide anything breakthrough as regards protection, but it does provide the basics. This includes antivirus, firewall, and some light intrusion prevention. The endpoint security agent provides protection against threats coming in via e-mail (SMTP, POP3, MAPI), instant messaging, as well as Web and FTP. As a practice, customers looking for better information on malware detection rates and efficacy are best served by looking at the organizations that specialize in that function such as Virus Bulletin, West Coast Labs, ICSA Labs, and AV-Comparatives. From my review of Panda's results in several tests, more work needs to be done on Panda's part to improve their numbers here.

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