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How a Cloud Antivirus Works


Panda Cloud Antivirus scans your computer at regular intervals and checks it against the latest malware threats in its database.
Panda Cloud Antivirus scans your computer at regular intervals and checks it against the latest malware threats in its database.
Screenshot by Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

Whether you have years of computing behind you, or you've just bought your first laptop or desktop, you're probably familiar with the need to protect computers from viruses. A virus is a software program that installs itself on your computer and makes undesirable changes to the data on your computer. Though there are rare viruses designed to target offline computers, we're talking about malicious software (malware) you can pick up from the Internet.

To prevent malware from attacking your data, you can use antivirus software. One antivirus option is a technology called cloud antivirus. Cloud antivirus software does most of its processing elsewhere on the Internet rather than on your computer's hard drive. Internet technology like cloud computing has made such innovations both possible and affordable.

Cloud antivirus software consists of client and Web service components working together. The client is a small program running on your local computer, which scans the system for malware. Full locally installed antivirus applications are notorious resource hogs, but cloud antivirus clients require only a small amount processing power.

The Web service behind cloud antivirus is software running on one or more servers somewhere on the Internet. The Web service handles most of the data processing so your computer doesn't have to process and store massive amounts of virus information. At regular intervals, the client will scan your computer for any malware listed in the Web service's database.

Here's a summary of the advantages cloud antivirus has over traditional, locally installed antivirus software:

  • You have access to the latest data about malware within minutes of the cloud antivirus Web service learning about it. There's no need to continually update your antivirus software to ensure you're protected from the latest threats.
  • The cloud antivirus client is small, and it requires little processing power as you go on with your day-to-day activities online.
  • It's free! You can get an impressive level of virus protection from the free versions of cloud antivirus software. You can also purchase upgrades for additional utilities and support, for prices that are competitive with popular local-only antivirus applications.

Now that you know what cloud antivirus is, let's look at the features of cloud antivirus software and how you can use them to keep your system clean.


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