For anyone connecting to the internet, security has long been an issue. However, for many small businesses, the cost of security has also been a big issue and a heavy burden because the cost of security has often outweighed its benefits.

Balancing the cost of security against the type of available solutions at the lower end of the market has been difficult in the past. It is easy to see why many companies felt that what they could afford was not going to provide the level of protection that they really required and simply did not bother.

However, this is not a problem associated only with small-to medium- sized businesses. It has also become a problem for home office owners and a growing number of freelance and remote workers, who have taken a step towards a renewed quality of life – despite the increased security threat that comes with it.

Fortunately, there are developers that have stepped up to fill the breach, taking a renowned technology – one often first developed with Fortune 100 clients in mind – and they have perceived the real threat to the smaller business and produced a selection of secure appliances and software solutions for a large, but often under-represented, section of the business community.

Check Point Software Technologies is an established developer that, having had a lot of success with its firewall and VPN solutions, has now turned its attention to the smaller, but often no less vulnerable business model. Hackers do not discriminate on the basis of size, nor does malicious code entering a network, so it is an area of security that has been long overdue.

The small business has to join with their larger counterparts which demand security as standard, and with Safe@Office now offering high-end security at a realistic

Price, the dilemma is no longer a huge issue to businesses that might be small in size.

Safe@Office is based on the well-known Check Point VPN- 1/Firewall-1 software and the appliance can be licensed for five, ten, 25 or unlimited network users, and this makes it an ideal solution for small business by offering big security that only a bigger company could previously afford.

Measuring less than eight inches by five inches, this small box sits conveniently and discreetly in any office, but with an imbedded stateful inspection firewall, a remote access VPN, four-port switch and preset security rules, this little box packs a mighty punch.

It is worth acknowledging that although we reviewed the Safe@Office 200 Series solution, Check Point also offers an even smaller version of Safe@Office for the home office user in their 100 Series. Although some of the high end security features are not included in the 100 Series, it offers much, much more than many of its competitors in this price range.

With the 200 Series, the user capacity is higher, as is the firewall and VPN performance. There are backup capabilities thrown in as well. One such feature is the ability to define a back-up broadband ISP (should your first connection fail), and there's the option of automatic failover to a second 200 Series if required. We believe there are also plans to include backup to a dial-up ISP connection in a future release.

Additional user ports are also supplied for DMZ/Dual WAN and Console (serial) and the box is enabled for optional clientless email, anti-virus scanning and web content filtering services.

Also available as an optional feature is dynamic DNS, enabling a small company to use lower-cost "dynamic IP" addresses. This also allows customers, partners and remote PCs to find key resources such as email, FTP and other servers, and the Safe@Office gateway itself, at its current IP address.

Disappointingly, the appliance we reviewed was delivered without any documentation, but this is often the case with solutions that are sent from place to place. We can only assume that this hardware normally comes with the usual high standard of user-friendly written material with which other Check Point products are provided. This does, of course, mean that the rating for documentation has been assigned accordingly.

As for the set up and installation, both were pretty simple to accomplish.

The appliance comes with all the necessary cables and plug transformers, which are just connected to enable you to start the installation process. However, you need to remember that you do have to be in possession of the necessary product keys, while a password is required for administrative purposes.

Once these have been entered, the appliance can be nearly forgotten about and is as much a plug and- play solution as any. The ease in which the pre-configured appliance is added to a network ensures that user error is removed from the equation, encouraging a safe and reliable secure connection for all your internet connectivity.

As an additional extra, updates can be added to your solution to ensure that your network is protected against all the latest threats.

Incorporating these updates avoids the need for dedicated IT staff to be employed for this purpose. These updates can be automated, which means that user intervention is not required.

Overall, the appliance accomplishes what it has been designed to accomplish and it does what it sets out to do. Safe@Office effectively provides good security at a fraction of the cost of larger solutions. It is good to see small business needs being taken seriously within the security market, and small businesses now have no more excuses.
Product title
Product info
Name: Safe@Office Description: Price: from $299
Ease of use, pre-configured, automated upgrades available, a choice of features with high-end security.
No written documentation was provided, although setup was certainly easy even without it.
Small, high-end security at a fraction of the cost of the larger appliances for home office and small business models has to be good news.

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