SonicWall NSA: A UTM worthy of the name

SonicWall's NSA E7500 combines smooth setup, high performance, and real protection against Internet malware

The SonicWall NSA E7500 is a breeze to configure, an excellent performer, and the truest unified threat manager (UTM) we tested, blocking an impressive 96 percent of the attacks we threw at it. The SonicWall didn't quite match the WatchGuard's throughput, but did provide six times the throughput of the Astaro and ZyXel units, and far better attack protection than all three. The SonicWall may be the only truly effective UTM in the group, but it's also startlingly more expensive than the other products.

SonicWall provides gateway anti-virus services across a range of protocols: HTTP, FTP, IMAP, SMTP, POP3, CIFS/NetBIOS, and TCP streaming protocols, either inbound or outbound. It also provides rich IDS/IPS functionality, anti-spyware protection (with an incredibly rich set of signatures available to check packets against), a real-time black list, and Web content filter that can restrict ActiveX, Java, cookies, or HTTP proxy services, as well as use white and black lists for access. It should be pointed out that rules could be applied by schedule, to perhaps allow gaming after hours.

Optional software is available to allow the SonicWall to provide NAC-like services such as enforcing the use of anti-virus software on clients. SonicWall also offers a central management system that allows you to manage all of your SonicWall devices from a single console.

Wizard power

SonicWall beats the competition on ease of initial setup. You get a series of wizards to set up an Internet firewall or an application firewall, or to provide public access to an internal server, or to set up VPNs (either site to site or from a SonicWall Global VPN client). Going through the setup wizard, you're prompted to change your password and time zone, set up the WAN interface, set up the LAN, establish your DHCP settings, then wrap everything up. You have to know how you want things set up, but the wizard makes sure you proceed in a nice logical order, and you don't forget anything.

The wizards can even have a pleasant sense of humor, such as when suggesting that you make your admin password something that's "easy to remember but difficult to guess, such as k3ch33s3." We know we'll always keep that in mind.

Setting up VPN tunnels is straightforward, although the sheer number of policy options makes it less simple than it might be. If you're not comfortable with all the options, the wizard is there to help. But with or without the wizard, the SonicWall lets you create VPN tunnels for almost any purpose you can imagine.

SonicWall includes SSL VPN as part of the bundle, supporting Windows (32- and 64-bit), Mac, and Linux users through either an SSL Web portal or a downloadable client that can tunnel all or part of the network traffic of the remote device. The portal allows you to add in your own HTML code and bookmarks for RDP, Telnet, HTML/SSL, SSH, file shares (CIFS), and Citrix. The NetExtender client allows routes to be pushed to the remote client to force certain traffic through the SSL VPN. A cool option will remove the NetExtender software upon logout, leaving behind minimal footprints on that Internet café machine you just used.

SonicWall scorecard
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