SmoothWall Network Guardian
Strengths: Dynamic and intelligent web content management.
Weaknesses: Requires the purchase of equipment along with a per user price.
Verdict: A fully functional software-based appliance with a higher cost of ownership.
SummaryNetwork Guardian is a self-contained software appliance that incorporates SmoothWall's exclusively dynamic and intelligent approach to web content filtering alongside anti-spyware, anti-virus and browser exploit prevention. Dynamic content analysis is used to examine the content, context and construction of web pages in detail, so all objectionable, malicious and hidden content can be accurately detected and blocked. Sites are classified into categories and then blocked or allowed based on policy settings. This allows for complete dynamic protection across the enterprise.
Since this is a software-based appliance, the install is trickier than just plugging in an appliance. We had to first download the ISO from SmoothWall and burn it to a CD, and then we had to use an unused server (hopefully you have one laying around or you have to go buy one) to install the software. Beyond that, this is a straightforward Linux-type install. It only took a few minutes and the install was complete. From there we configured the IP settings directly on the server itself and then we could access the web GUI. This GUI is well organized and intuitive to navigate with the main categories across the top, which, once selected, open a tab-based navigation structure.
We found that there was a lot of configuration we could do with the Network Guardian. There are many types of policies and groups that can be created and configured quite easily with many categories already built into the appliance. This product can also plug into the existing Active Directory structure, which makes assigning policies simple without having to create new groups or users.
Documentation is made up of three PDF manuals: a quick-start guide, an installation guide and the administrator guide.
SmoothWall offers 30 days free phone and email support with the purchase of the product. Ongoing support is offered as part of a maintenance agreement.
At a price starting at $700 for 10 users, plus the cost of extra equipment, we find this product to be an average value for the money. While it does have some nice features, there are additional costs for the tool.