Cymphonix Network Composer 7
An affordable, competent web content filter appliance for small- to medium-sized environments.
Needs a bit of help simplifying the user interface and better documentation.
If you have a small- to medium-sized organization this is a good value. Be prepared to spend a bit of time getting it going though.
Cymphonix describes the function of its Network Composer 7 as "internet data stream control technology." In this regard, the product looks at whatever passes through the appliance and makes judgments based on the contents of the data stream. One example is the ability to detect efforts to bypass controls by using a web anonymizer, such as Anonymouse, as a proxy for surfing disallowed sites. While this may be an apparent benefit if you consider URLs only, products that perform content filtering have similar general capabilities and we don’t consider this an important differentiator.
Like most of the products we tested, Network Composer 7 makes extensive use of wizards, especially during set-up, to simplify deployment and management. However, we found the web-based user interface a bit awkward, and switching between screens was slower than we expected. Managing policies and groups is not as straightforward as it could be, but once you start analyzing traffic things get better with easy to read and understandable graphs.
The product blocks based on URL, category, file type and mime type, as well as content. The categories and allowed surfing times are highly customizable and Network Composer 7 has several added features typical of the products we tested. In addition to web content filtering, the appliance filters peer-to-peer traffic, records instant messaging traffic and protects against spyware and viruses.
Network Composer 7 comes with a quick start guide and user documentation in the form of a PDF file. The quick start is competent and aids in set-up and configuration. However, the user manual is neither indexed nor hyperlinked, so you need to search through the manual to find what you want. Both manuals have numerous screen shots to help simplify the set-up and management of the appliance, but this is typical of today’s products.
Support is above average and includes the usual frequently asked questions, documentation downloads and support forum. Toll-free phone support also is available. Network Composer 7 is priced in the middle of the pack, but is most appropriate for small- and medium-sized organizations. There are two models available: the smaller one tops out at 150 users, while the larger model is not recommended to exceed 500 users. It has a maximum user profile of 1500 users.