Security vendor Panda Software has announced a full cloud web security service which it claims frees smaller companies from the need to filter for malware using complicated gateway boxes.

Aimed primarily at laptops used outside a company's offices, but also branch offices, from the point of view of the user Panda Cloud Internet Protection is about as simple as security comes. There is no security software running on the PC, and the traffic is run through Panda's data centres by pointing the browser at a proxy server.

Traffic is then combed for the usual range of malware, attachment and botnet indicators. Admins set up the service using a web console to allow or disallow certain URLs, and access to named social networks, webmail, blog systems and other online applications. Control can be taken as far as the enforcement of specific browsers and versions.

The advantage for IT is that policies can be enforced quite quickly and easily for the one part of the PC population that tends to hit problems, namely laptops and smartphones. Doing this as a service frees them from having to specify and manage an appliance, integrating it into other infrastructure.

Performance is claimed to be 15 microseconds at worst from a global family of data centres What the service doesn't secure is email, for which the company has a separate offering.

"That is the beauty of having your own data centre," said Panda Software UK and Swedish product manager, Sebastian Zabala. "We make sure that latency is not an issue."

Cloud security services are fashionable on the back of rising disaffection with the established client model, but companies have been surprisingly slow to invest in the new infrastructure needed to being such services to fruition. Cloud is easy to talk up but expensive to build. Meanwhile, larger security companies make a lot of money from selling software licenses.

Cloud security is a bit pricier than conventional software antivirus. Panda is offering companies batches of 25 licenses for £67.55 ($103) per machine, per year, several times what it would cost to stick software on the same laptop, albeit that the security filtering on offer will in theory be more substantial. Free trials are being offered to try out the service first, however.

Panda Software also offers a free cloud antivirus system for consumers.