Best of 2006: Multifunction security appliances

What are the pros and cons of multifunction appliances? There is no doubt that, at some level, they are a single point of failure. The more functions they offer, the more risky that becomes. But depending on the situation, a single point of failure might be manageable with a hot standby.

More important, however, is the appliance's impact on defense-in-depth. While they offer a lot of convenience and even an economic benefit, there is no doubt that defense-in-depth is sacrificed.

Generally, we found that there is an inverse relationship between the size of an organization and the number of features in an appropriate multifunction appliance. The smaller the organization, the more economy is a big factor. A multifunction appliance can offer a lot of protection for a relatively lower cost. The down sides are the single point of failure, impact on defense-in-depth, and need for solid training of all support personnel. For these organizations, full-featured appliances may make sense, but have a cost attached.

Product: InstaGate PRO 
Vendor: eSoft, Inc. 
Verdict: Extremely powerful and flexible product for the money.  

Vendor: Equiinet 
Verdict: Excellent for SMEs. Priced right with necessary UTM features.

Product: Proventia Network MFS Appliance
Vendor: Internet Security Systems
Verdict: A powerful multifunction appliance, easy to set up and manage, and very well documented.

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