AEP Networks’ SmartGate was the most unique solution we tested. This product is a secure authentication proxy that runs at the application level of the OSI model. The product is similar to a typical SSL VPN, but with added authentication components that make the user’s authentication tunnel more secure. The product has a user provisioning component that is web-based and that is also secured inside of an SSL tunnel. Because the SmartGate allows a single authentication to many different back-end products, it functions like a web-based single sign-on product. The product documentation refers to this as a federation component, but it is really closer to web-based single sign-on. The product also offers increased logging options that are more closely aligned to the identity management space than the SSL VPN space.

AEP Networks’ SmartGate was easy to install on the Windows 2003 test environment. The product includes an installation PDF, which was all that was needed to install and configure the product for general use. The only difficulty we encountered during installation was slight confusion regarding how to configure the port or ports that the SmartGate application would be using. It only took a few guesses and the product was up and running without a hitch.

Documentation for this product is in the form of several PDF files that are indexed. Each operating system (OS) had its own PDF file for the configuration and use of the SmartGate product. We were impressed by the large number of platforms that were not only supported, but also well documented. Most of the PDF files were small in size so scrolling through the files was not overly cumbersome.

AEP Networks offers phone support as well as self-directed support through its website. The support website was well done with a searchable knowledge base, technical white papers, a FAQ section, as well as online training videos. Of all the products we evaluated in this round of tests, the AEP Network support site was clearly the easiest to use and most comprehensive.

Priced at the upper end on a user basis, the SmartGate product is expensive for the features that it offers.