Average user rating
- Based on Check Point firewall/VPN technology
- easy browser-based setup and management
- add-on antivirus, URL filtering and other subscription services
- No anti-spam filtering
- separate Internet modem/router required
Based on Check Point’s market-leading firewall and VPN technology, the security credentials of the Safe@Office small business security appliance are unimpeachable. But that’s not the only reason for buying it. There’s also the relatively low price tag and the ability to add optional extras like antivirus and URL filtering services. Furthermore, it turns out to be remarkably easy both to configure and manage.
The hardware involved comes in two sizes. The 100 Series (from £185 ex. VAT) is for networks with 5-10 users, while the better specified 200 Series can handle 25 or more users and also features a DMZ (De-Militarised Zone) for public-facing Web and email servers. We tested the Safe@Office 225 which, as the name implies, is licensed for 25 users in total (10 for VPN remote access) and which has the ability to process up to 80Mbps through its firewall.
Although painted bright orange, the device itself isn’t very big -- or much to look at for that matter: it has a dedicated Ethernet port for Internet connectivity and integrated 4-port switch for local networking. Browser-based management is the order of the day, with lots of wizards and a simple three-level start-up option (low, medium or high security) for the firewall. The IPSec VPN server features its own wizards and supports both site-to-site and remote user tunnelling, with client software (VPN-1 SecuRemote) also included.
The stateful inspection firewall and VPN server are both embedded into the silicon and require little configuration, although they can be tweaked if required. The interface is, again, intuitive making it easy, for example, to route different types of traffic to local hosts -- such as Web, email and FTP servers -- sited behind the firewall. Similarly, it’s possible to add custom firewall rules, manage bandwidth use and link to external RADIUS servers for user authentication.
Additional subscription-based services can also be added, including email antivirus scanning (inbound and outbound) and content filtering based on categorised URL lists. Antivirus protection costs £760 for two years, while the URL filtering service costs £560. These services can be enabled in minutes: the Safe@Office appliance verifies that you’ve paid the subscription and then handles the required firmware update automatically.
The built-in logging and monitoring tools won’t set the world alight, but they're adequate for an appliance of this type; when deployed in pairs, you even get the option of automatic failover. Rival solutions can certainly be had for less, you still need a separate Internet modem or router, and there’s no anti-spam filtering. Even so, few alternatives offer the flexibility and upgrade options of Safe@Office. This, together with the Check Point pedigree, actually makes it something of a bargain.