Network Composer 7
Strengths: An affordable, competent web content filter appliance for SMEs
Weaknesses: Needs a bit of help simplifying the user interface, could do with better organised documentation
Verdict: If you're buying for an SME, this is good value. Be prepared to spend a bit of time getting it going, though
Cymphonix describes the function of Network Composer 7 as "internet data stream control technology". In this regard, the product looks at whatever passes through the appliance and makes judgments based on the contents of the data stream. An example is the ability to detect efforts to bypass controls by using a web anonymiser such as Anonymouse as a proxy for surfing disallowed sites.
While this may be an apparent benefit if you consider URLs only, products that perform content filtering have similar general capabilities and we don't consider this an important differentiator.
Like most of the products we tested, Network Composer makes extensive use of wizards, especially during setup, to simplify deployment and management. However, we found the web-based user interface a bit awkward and switching between screens was slower than we expected. Managing policies and groups is not as straightforward as it could be. Once you start analysing traffic. things improve, with easy-to-read graphs.
The product blocks based on URL, category, file type and mime type as well as content. The categories and allowed surfing times are highly customisable. The device also filters peer-to-peer traffic, records instant messaging traffic and protects against spyware and viruses.
Network Composer 7 comes with a quick-start guide and user documentation in the form of a pdf file. The quick-start guide is competent and aids in setup and configuration. However, the user manual is not indexed and hyperlinked, so you need to search through it to find what you want. Both manuals have many screen shots to help simplify the setup and management of the appliance but this is typical of today's products.
Support is above average, and includes the usual frequently asked questions, documentation downloads and support forum. Phone support also is available.
Priced in the middle of the pack, Cymphonix Network Composer 7 is most appropriate for small and medium-sized organisations.
There are two models available. The smaller one tops out at 150 users, while the larger version is not recommended to exceed 500 users. It has a maximum user profile of 1,500 users.